First published back in October of 1999, ‘The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Weird Stories’ was a newly compiled omnibus of American author H.P. Lovecraft’s more famous work that was compiled and edited by S.T. Joshi, and included a new introduction and explanatory notes.

Introduction – 14 Pages
In his reasonably lengthy introduction, freelance writer and editor, S.T. Joshi, provides quite a thorough overview of Lovecraft’s life from boyhood, all the way through to the end of his literary career and eventual death at the age of forty-six.  The introduction is methodical in its timeline and sequencing of events, providing specific dates and print numbers as well as detailing the author’s inspiration and his lifestyle at the time of each publication.  Passages taken from letters penned by the author and quotes from fellow readers and admirers make up a substantial picture of the reception that Lovecraft received towards his weird and imaginatively dark tales.  As such, the introduction is more of a factual examination of the author’s life, rather than a gushing aperitif to shower the late author’s work in praise and utter admiration.  And the book is no doubt the better for it.  The author’s ability, originality, and lasting dominance in the world of dark literary fiction are undeniable.  Pages of such praise are not necessary, and if anything, just become tiresome and monotonous.    Joshi’s introduction is much more in tune to what reader’s will want as an introduction to such a ‘best of’ collection.  And Joshi has delivered this to just the right length and level of detail to keep the introduction an interesting read from start to finish.

Dagon - 6 Pages
His life had never been the same since that fateful day when a German Sea-Raider captured their ship deep in the Pacific Ocean.  He managed to escape on a small boat with water and provisions, but was left floating adrift without any idea of where he was.  

After finally washing up on the shoreline of a hellish black mire which had evidentially recently risen from deep down on the seabed, the lost merchant marine officer sits and waits for three days to pass before venturing across the newly risen island surface.  With the ground now sufficiently dried out for him to walk upon, he sets off to see what he can find.  A trek that brings him to an immense canyon, which upon descending its steep sides, reveals a gigantic stone monolith bearing innumerable aquatic carvings and strange hieroglyphics.  Carvings that depict monstrous seabound beasts of immense scale and dimensions.  Hellish creations which will plague the mind of this desperately lost mariner until the escape of death eventually takes him...

First published in ‘The Vagrant’ back in November of 1919, Lovecraft’s story ‘Dagon’ is the author’s earliest writing incorporating his infamous Cthulhu Mythos.  Utilising the first-person-perspective of an unnamed marine officer as he recalls the horrors he witnessed when he was lost within the seemingly endless waters of the Pacific Ocean, Lovecraft creates an almost instant feeling of unease with the disorientation combining with the hopelessness of being lost within these vast and unknown waters.  And when the recently risen island is brought into the tale, this growing concern is magnified tenfold by the dark and decaying state of the land.  All of which works perfectly in setting the mood for the unveiling of the stone monolith and the resulting beast from the deep.  A truly superb piece of atmospheric and nerve-jangling horror fiction.

The Statement Of Randolph Carter - 7 Pages
After being found wandering aimlessly through the boggy marshland of the Big Cypress Swamp, Randolph Carter provides a horrifying statement as to how he came to be in such a distraught state out in the wilderness of the swampland, and more chillingly, what happened to his close friend, Harley Warren, who set out with him that very night.  A statement that tells of Warren’s obsession with the occult and his constant search for answers in these dark arts along with Warren’s ownership of a powerful book that told of secret doorways to an underworld where ungodly entities reside.  And it’s with this very knowledge that Warren and Carter set out across the Big Cypress Swamp to an ancient graveyard where Warren believes an entranceway to this hidden underworld exists.  And in it, the chilling fate of Randolph Carter’s close friend...

First published in ‘The Vagrant’ back in May of 1920, Lovecraft’s short story ‘The Statement Of Randolph Carter’ was the first piece of work penned by the author to include his recurring character Randolph Carter.  Indeed, Lovecraft declared that the story itself was inspired by a dream he had in which he played the part of Carter.  As such, Lovecraft has adopted his usual first-person-perspective; delivering the story in the past tense via the chilling statement of this deeply traumatised man.  And through this fictional statement, Lovecraft tells a story laced with dark secrets and the harrowing fate of investigating these unholy mysteries.  The end to the statement is hellishly creepy in its subtly suggestive delivery of the horrific fate of Warren.  Perhaps one of the most chilling offerings by this incredible author of dark and twisted short stories.

Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family - 10 Pages
Sir Arthur Jermyn was a man of interesting heritage.  Indeed, his entire family had a peculiar appearance to them.  Facial features that had something not quite right to them.  But in the end, it was the contents of a boxed object which had come from Africa which saw the deeply troubled nobleman walk out on to the moor and burn himself to death.  However, the reasoning behind such a horrific action goes back five generations, to the exploration performed by Sir Wade Jermyn in the Congo region.  There the explorer supposedly uncovered a curious white civilisation, for which his writing about, eventually saw his admittance to an insane asylum.  But, the subject of the explorer’s mysterious discovery will stay with the family through its many generations.  And will eventually mean the death of the late Sir Arthur Jermyn...

First published in the journal ‘The Wolverine’ back in March of 1921, Lovecraft’s short ‘Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family’ is a strangely elaborate story surrounding the family history and generational appearance of the unfortunate Jermyn family.  The surprise twist ending (and indeed the crux behind the whole tale) is somewhat predictable – especially by modern horror standards.  However, this slight issue does not detract too much from the strangely queasy (and downright weirdness) of the short.  Its strength is in its oddness, and the uncovering of a family history that is more obnoxious than it is horrific.  But in amongst the carefully woven details of this bizarre tale is an intriguing and compelling read, which captivates as much as repels the curious reader.

Celephaïs – 7 Pages
In his dream-world he was named Kuranes.  A name that he held only in his dreams.  And it is in this world behind his consciousness that Kuranes created the magnificent city of Celephaïs.  Situated in the valley of Ooth-Nargai beside the Cerenerian Sea, Celephaïs became an enchanting dream-world for him to escape to.  And so, as a youthful child, he gradually withdrew from the real world around him and embraced more and more that of his wonderful dream-world.  And now, after so many years have passed him by, the man known as Kuranes whilst he sleeps, has returned to Celephaïs to fulfil his magnificent destiny in the timeless city...

First published back in May of 1922 within the second issue of ‘The Rainbow’ periodical, Lovecraft’s oddly surreal fantasy short story ‘Celephaïs’ incorporated a very different theme than the majority of work by this prolific horror short story writer.  Indeed, the short formed part of Lovecraft’s ‘Dream Cycle’ which was later brought together into ‘Dreams Of Terror And Death’ (1985).  With the tale centred on a magical and mythical city from the narrator’s personal dream-world, the story is quintessentially a lucid dream-sequence where anything is possible as long as imagination allows.  As such, its inclusion in Lovecraft’s ‘Dreamlands’ series plays a particularly vital role in establishing this weirdly timeless dream-city.  However, for all its imagination and creative flair, the short falls short on delivering a story that really grips the reader.  As such, it’s easy to come away from reading ‘Celephaïs’ feeling just a little deflated.

Nyarlathotep – 3 Pages
From out of Egypt, the crawling chaos that is Nyarlathotep came to swallow up mankind in a nightmarish abyss of madness.  For all those who laid eyes upon the old god, were shown sights beyond anything that man had seen before.  And so crowds flocked to see Nyarlathotep.  To witness the visions beyond the human mind.  And after seeing the unimaginable through the eyes of the Great Old One, madness will be waiting to embrace your mind thereafter...

First published in ‘The United Amateur’ in November of 1920, Lovecraft’s ‘Nyarlathotep’ was written by way of a prose poem; incorporating poetic wordplay and emotive imagery to create an altogether more flowing read.  As such, ‘Nyarlathotep’ is a creepily atmospheric read, with a pulsing rhythm to it that fits in perfectly with the subject matter at hand.  It has to be said that very little seems to actually happen with regards to the actual storytelling or overall plot.  But instead of focusing primarily on delivering a tale, Lovecraft puts his attention towards elaborate descriptions and vivid details, selecting the most emotive of words to create an evocative picture of the old god and his devoted following.

The Picture In The House
– 9 Pages
It was during a downpour of particularly heavy rain in November of 1896, whilst on a quest for genealogical data amongst the people of the Miskatonic Valley, that the traveller found himself on an apparently abandoned road on his way to Arkham.  Seeking refuge from the chilling rain, the traveller enters what he presumes is an empty and abandoned old house.  However, inside the shelter of the tumbledown shack, he encounters a ragged old man who apparently still resides there.  An old man who speaks in a long-forgotten dialect that our traveller struggles to understand.  But most eerie of all, is the man’s obvious fascination with an old engraving depicting in gruesome detail a butcher’s shop of the cannibal Anziques.  A picture that has the old man longing for something more...

First published in the ‘National Amateur’ in July of 1919, Lovecraft’s ‘The Picture In The House’ is a strangely eerie tale that plays with the instantly uneasy premise of finding yourself in an unknown locale with a strange individual who is quickly becoming a growing worry.  Indeed, Lovecraft puts a great deal of weight into building the creepy atmosphere within the decrepit old shack.  The old man is fleshed-out to an absolute tee.  And with the somewhat open-ended conclusion, Lovecraft keeps the reader’s imagination whirring with the horrific possibilities of what had been going on in that very house prior to our traveller’s unexpected arrival.

The Outsider – 7 Pages
He has been alone for so long, he can no longer recall anyone else.  His memories of how he came to be in this godforsaken castle have long since perished.  He has no recollection of who he is, where he might be, or any attribution towards his past.  He is truly alone and that is all that he can remember.

His surroundings are equally as bleak and foreboding.  No natural light can be seen anywhere in the gloomy castle where he spends the entirety of his existence.  His only knowledge of life outside of the vast stone walls of this castle is through the many books that line the inner castle walls.  Outside, amongst the vast forest of aged trees, a great tower can be seen extending upwards, out of the clawing canopy of the overbearing treeline.

And now, when he feels he can no longer take this never-ending depressive solitude, he decides to attempt to climb the colossal tower – or die trying.  Inside, after the spiralling stone staircase comes to an abrupt end, he has no option but to climb the remaining distance using footholds and gaps in the stone walls.  Eventually he makes it to the top of the tower.  His head pressed against the stone ceiling that with effort shifts, allowing him to clamber up into the room beyond.

And here, with the brilliant glare of the moon shining in through the gated break in the stone way, he finally feels natural light upon his body.  But upon looking out into the world outside, a terrible understanding of his previous existence will come crashing down upon him.  For he is and always has been an outsider...

First published back in April of 1926 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short story ‘The Outsider’ is a bleak and downtrodden tale, with a foreboding sense of utter isolation and solitary existence seeping out from what seems to be every single word within the tale.  Written in the first-person-perspective of our tragic narrator, the tale incorporates a miserable sense of childlike ignorance, causing a great sense of utter disorientation to set into the very fabric of the tale.  And from when our narrator finally escapes from his underground world, the tale suddenly takes to a startlingly skittish pace, with the twist-ending becoming more and more predictable as the tragic tale blindly pushes onwards.  And indeed, Lovecraft ends with a momentous unveiling of the truth behind the poor wretch’s fate – which although not entirely a surprise in itself, still ends the tale on a excellently executed note.

Herbert West — Reanimator – 31 Pages
Now that Herbert West has gone from his life, the young doctor who went to medical school with him is finally able to look back on their time spent together and see the insanity that plagued West for what it truly is.  Looking back he can see how West’s ravenous desire to explore the world of biological science brought about the madness that quickly enwrapped the two of them.  West’s theories on how he could reanimate the recently deceased with a carefully created serum of his own design began the whole chain of events that will end in utter, horrifying tragedy.  Beginning their experiments on corpses from a nearby graveyard, the two scientists quickly realised that they needed fresh specimens to experiment upon in order to have a chance of receiving any favourable results.  And so, they kept their eyes glued to the local obituaries, always on the lookout for the freshest of cadavers.  And it’s with the very recent corpse of an unknown workman that they had their very first reaction.  A blood-chilling scream that tore through the old farmhouse and resulted in the building burning to the ground.  But West wouldn’t stop there.  The experiments had only just begun...

First published as a six-part serialisation in ‘Home Brew’ monthly magazine between February of 1922 and July of 1922, Lovecraft’s short story ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ is the undoubtedly the most constrained piece of fiction written by the author; having to stick with the publisher’s strict rulings surrounding a recap at the beginning of each instalment as well as a cliffhanger at the end of each.  Following its publication, Lovecraft admitted that the tale is perhaps his poorest offering.  However the story was later adapted by Stuart Gordon for his film ‘Re-Animator’ (1985) which was later followed on by two sequels.  Outside of the six-part-framework, the story itself is a particularly twisted little tale – utilising the idea of reanimated corpses (ala zombies) to create an altogether creepy read.  Delivered in the first-person-perspective of our unnamed narrator (as is often the way with Lovecraft), the story keeps a solid momentum going, with the experiments and horrifying results constantly escalating, and West’s obvious madness growing further and further out of control.  The end results are an intense and exciting read, with enough horror and mayhem crammed in to really get the pulse-racing.  

The Hound – 8 Pages
Their joint morbid curiosity initially began with researching the darker side of philosophy, until they needed something more in order to stimulate their feverish needs.  And so, from there the two men began grave robbing.  Collecting together trophies and souvenirs to add to their personal museum which they set up within the house which they shared together.  But it’s when the two ghouls learnt of a particular grave located in a graveyard in Holland where a legendary grave robber was buried fiver-hundred years ago, that their desire drove them to go further afield for their sick trophies.  And, after travelling such a distance to desecrate and pilfer from this ancient grave, the two men were not disappointed with what they found.  Hung around the corpse’s neck they discovered a jade amulet that is spoken of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred.  A possession that they both knew that they must have for their depraved museum.  But with the removal of the amulet there came a dreadful wrath upon the two ghouls.  A vengeance that echoes through the silence of the night, on the breath of a howling hound...

First published within the February 1924 issue of ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Hound’ utilised a particularly poe-esque and altogether darkly sinister subject matter.  Indeed from the outset the reader is thrust into a story telling of a near-addiction for collecting together the most depraved and ghoulish of souvenirs.  Written in the first-person-perspective of one of the grave robbers, the tale is able to quickly and easily draw the reader into the snowballing effect of the two men’s’ desire for more and more trophies of this despicable nature.  And with such a dark subject matter, Lovecraft quite effortlessly begins to creep in the supernatural horror aspect of the tale.  And it’s when the two arrive at the cemetery in Holland and hear the distant baying of the hound for the first time that the sinister atmosphere attached to the tale plunges to bone-chilling depths.  All in all the short is a masterpiece of the dark, twisted and downright creepy.  It’s utterly chilling and builds up a nail-biting level of suspense to get the heart pumping and the sweat glands working overtime.

The Rats In The Walls - 30 Pages
In July of 1923, after deciding to move from his home in Massachusetts into his ancestral estate in England known as Exham Priory, Delapore soon realises that the recently restored grand estate has a few issues attached to it.  The single most annoying issue, for both himself and his nine cats, was the sound of rats frantically scurrying about inside the many walls of the property.  Already troubled by haunting dreams, and having set numerous traps to no avail, Delapore decides that he must explore the crypt located in the property’s sub-cellar.  A crypt which has Delapore’s favourite cat, Nigger-Man, frantically clawing at the base of a large central altar.  An alter that, once opened up with the help of a team of archeologists, reveals a secret passageway descending into the dark and eerie depths below...

First published back in March of 1924 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, ‘The Rats In The Walls’ is another one of those shorts that has been adapted on a number of occasions and has remained one of the most referenced and well-loved shorts by this prolific short story writer.  The tale is quite a slow-burner, spending much of the first third dealing with the ins and outs of Delapore’s ancestry.  Indeed, detailing the complexities of the man’s family links to the property end up taking an (overly) prominent role within the entirety of the tale, which at times begins to  feel a bit too restraining on the otherwise escalating tension.  But it’s the clinging atmosphere of the piece that really gets to the reader.  An atmosphere that just builds and consumes the writing, making the first two-thirds of the tale read like a ticking-time-bomb.  And then the unnerving revelation of what actually lies underneath the huge property hits the reader square in the face and from here until the end is a magnificent story of an imagination let to roam the wilderness of madness.  An incredible read.

The Festival - 10 Pages
With the Christmas festivities upon him, the idea of exploring a link back to his heritage in the forgotten town of Kingsport in Massachusetts drew a great amount of interest for him.  And so, after travelling some distance, he arrived at the ancient sea town where he hoped to witness the secret festival that was held there once every century.  His first port of call was to visit his relatives’ house, whereupon he was greeted by a strange looking man who was clearly hiding his true face for some unknown reason.  And it’s whilst he was waiting in the house for the festival to commence, that our inquisitive tourist began to peruse a Latin translation of the Necronomicon which he found in the premises.  And then, at the strike of eleven, he was led out of the house and off with the festival’s procession – where he would witness strange, haunting and ungodly beasts that will push his sanity to the very limits.  It is a night which he will forever wish he had never experienced...

First published within the January 1925 issue of ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Festival’ is certainly a creepy little read.  The tale begins with a particularly ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ (1936) type of setting, with Kingsport displaying an unnerving and altogether eerie atmosphere for our narrator to arrive within.  As is so often the case with Lovecraft’s shorts, the tale is written in the first-person-perspective of an unnamed narrator, pulling the reader into the storyline as if they themselves were the one witnessing and experiencing these horrific sights.  Lovecraft’s imagination runs absolute riot as he pushes the storyline on to some more weird and twisted Cthulhu madness, with the festival procession turning to something out of a nightmare.  The short concludes well, with a stab-in-the chest of an open-ending ending.  It terrifies…and it does it so damn well.

He - 11 Pages
Only now, after moving all of the way to New York City, did he start to regret the drastic upheaval of his life.  He found the streets filled with oppression and misery, not the great city of inspiration that he had imagined it to be.  And so this feeling of deep regret was the reason for him to be out in the streets late that night, walking around in a sleepless and restless state.  However, in a particularly grotesque hidden courtyard of the Greenwich section he comes across a curious man dressed in eighteenth century garments who offers to show him untold secrets surrounding their whereabouts.  With little to motivate him otherwise, the downtrodden man accepts the invitation and joins the strange cloaked man to his abode deep within a maze of unknown streets and passageways.  And there, within the well-furnished library of his musty home, his odd companion for the night tells him a story that will truly chill his blood.  And the weight of the tale will ultimately come crashing down of him with a terrifying twist of fate for this lonesome man lost in a vast and uncaring city...

First published within the September 1926 issue of ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short ‘He’ sets off in a similar fashion to his earlier short ‘The Music Of Erich Zann’ (1922), whereby our unnamed narrator finds himself within a strange part of a city where he feels quite unnervingly lost.  With the meeting of the strange man in the gloomy courtyard, the tale instantly becomes atmospherically eerie, and the plodding pace only helps in keeping this general feeling of restlessness in place.  The creepy story that is then delivered has the horror twist that you would expect from such a tale, but with perhaps a more callous and cold-hearted conclusion.  Certainly not one of Lovecraft’s better tales, but an enjoyable read nevertheless.

Cool Air - 9 Pages
It was the spring of 1923 when he finally settled upon a new place to live, within a four-story mansion of brownstone in New York City.  After just three weeks had passed, the first odd incidence took place.  A pungent ammonia smelling secretion could be seen dripping into his flat from the property directly above his.  After attempting to investigate, he learns of his mysterious neighbour from a Mrs Herrero.  However it’s not long before he makes his first acquaintance with his reclusive neighbour, Dr Muñoz, after the doctor comes to his aid following a potential heart attack.  A friendship soon forms between the two, with the doctor’s obsession with defying death at the heart of their conversations.  And he soon learns that it’s the doctor’s desire to prolong life for as long as is possible that is the reason for the purposefully cold temperature that is maintained within the doctor’s flat.  But when the doctor’s refrigeration system breaks down – death is close behind...

First published within the March 1926 issue of ‘Tales Of Magic And Mystery’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short ‘Cool Air’ is a curious and slightly disturbing tale, chilling the reader rather than hitting them full in the face with a sledgehammer of horror.  Once again, like with his earlier short ‘The Music Of Erich Zann’ (1922), Lovecraft has utilised the scenario of putting the narrator outside of their comfort zone from the outset, having the recent move to a new part of a city putting the character into a general feeling of uneasy unknowing.  From this small nugget, Lovecraft carefully layers on the strange circumstances and the prolonged introduction of the odd Dr Muñoz; getting the overall feeling of restless unease just right.  And then Lovecraft hits the reader with the manic run-up to a desperate finale and the final unraveling of the ‘Herbert West — Reanimator’ (1922) style horror that has been there all along.

The Call Of Cthulhu
- 31 Pages
Francis Wayland Thurston first learned of Cthulhu, the Great Old Gods, and the cult that worships them, from his great-uncle George Gammell Angell.  From Angell’s notes, Thurston read about an artist’s sculpture of an ungodly beast, with a grotesquely scaly body and a hideous tentacled head.  A demonic abomination that the artist declared he had dreamed up in vivid detail and had since reproduced in his work.

A further transcript that Thurston reads through tells of a statue that had been obtained from the wooded swamps south of New Orleans when the police raided a supposed voodoo gathering there.  The strange and ghoulish statue was described as similar to that of the artist’s sculpture (from the previous transcript).  Furthermore, on its pedestal like base, Thurston reads that a number of strange and unfathomable characters had been inscribed.  Furthermore, upon raiding the squatter community, the police found the disfigured corpses of the local women that had gone missing, who were at the centre of a sacrificial ritual that had been performed by the many male followers of this evil cult.  Brainwashed cultists who chanted around the dead women’s bodies in a strange and ungodly tongue – with the word ‘Cthulhu’ at the very centre of their chanting.

Already sufficiently disturbed by his findings, Thurston continues with his own investigation into this strange and unnerving cult.  Research which eventually leads him to an article from an Australian newspaper detailing the discovery of a derelict ship found floating in the Pacific Ocean, completely abandoned other than for one sole survivor – a Norwegian sailor named Gustaf Johansen.  After the terrified man had been recused, he tells of a cult that attacked his fellow shipmates, killing almost all of them.  However, it’s only after the untimely death of Johansen that Thurston learns of the horrifying truth behind what happened to the crew of the schooner, Emma.  A terrible and nightmarish fate that befell those that happened upon an uncharted island, where the beast that connects all of these terrible stories has been awakened...

First published back in February 1928 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s ‘The Call Of Cthulhu’ is a particularly segmented piece of fiction, constructed from three singular stories surrounding a Cthulhu Cult, and only later going on to the first-hand experience of Thurston, the man whose manuscript ties together all of the stories.  Although very piecemeal in its construction, the final converging of the separate stories into one (quite unnerving) conclusion has one hell of a punch to it.  Indeed, Lovecraft’s mythos comes on leaps and bounds in this short alone, telling of the Great Old Gods and the brainwashed cultist following that extends from these powerful old gods.  Okay, so it’s certainly not Lovecraft’s most accomplished achievement, nevertheless the short still has plenty in there to send shivers down the spine and once again wrap the reader up in a terrifying world where colossal beasts still reside.

The Colour Out Of Space
- 30 Pages
It was in the Blasted Heath in the wild hills of Arkham, Massachusetts, that he eventually pieced together the disturbing story of what went on there after a meteorite crashed into the grounds of local farmer, Nahum Gardner, back in June of 1882.  The tragic story that later befell Gardner and his family following the impact of the meteorite is something that has lived with the local man, Ammi Pierce, ever since.  A story that has shunned him from the other townspeople, and in turn made him quite mad.  A story surrounding a rock that gradually shrank until there was nothing left but a strange colour from outside of our own spectrum, along with a poising of the ground that surrounded it.  And slowly but surely, when the crops grow back inedible and then die off, so follows the livestock and eventually the poisonous curse that came down from space takes its effect upon Nahum Gardner and his poor family...

First published back in September of 1927 within the monthly science fiction magazine ‘Amazing Stories’, Lovecraft’s short story ‘The Colour Out Of Space’ has remained one of the author’s most popular pieces of work along with being his personal favourite offering.  Written in the first-person-perspective of our curious narrator, the tale is quite slow to unfold, with Ammi Pierce’s story taking on a gradual pace; cautiously setting down a picture of the surrounding area and the lives of the Gardner family.  And indeed, the after effects of the meteorite are very gradual, only after a good portion of the short has already gone by does the tale take on a decidedly nasty note.  But when it does, it does with absolute gusto.  And as everything around the Gardner residence goes sour, so the madness and unveiling horror of the matter becomes increasingly evident, until the final discoveries send the short off with a bitter and darkly sinister note.  An absolute classic piece of Lovecraft fiction.

The Whisperer In Darkness - 68 Pages
Upon reading about strange sightings of unknown and unidentifiable objects seen floating on the waters during the Vermont flood of 1927, the Assistant Professor of English at Miskatonic University, Albert N Wilmarth, responds to the claims with his own down-to-earth view of the supposed sightings.  Upon the publication of these particularly skeptical views, Wilmarth receives back a letter from a Mr Henry Wentworth Akeley, who declares has absolute proof of the existence of a strange race of beings at his isolated farmhouse near Townshend, Vermont.

The correspondence between the two men continues, until it becomes apparent that Akeley’s letters are being intercepted by members of the secretive race.  Suddenly his out-of-the-way farmhouse is being targeted by a band of armed attackers, slaughtering a number of Akeley’s guard dogs in the process.  The situation has become very dangerous for Akeley.  And now, after prolonged correspondence with the man whose life may well be in jeopardy, Wilmarth accepts Akeley’s invitation to visit him – and finally see for himself the truth behind this hidden race...

First published in August of 1931 for ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Whisperer In Darkness’ starts off in a particularly detached manner, having the details of this interwoven race provided via written correspondence to our protagonist and narrator.  As the story develops, so does a growing feeling of unease surrounding the truth behind this man’s claims.  From a reasonably slow and cautiously-paced start, the novel takes an action-rich jump when Akeley’s home comes under attack.  And it’s in the aftermath of this gunfight that the real chills of the short set in.  Wilmarth’s apprehensive visit to Akeley’s abode is a tense and nervous affair, with an instant atmosphere of danger taking root from the moment he arrives.  And Lovecraft plays on this uneasy feeling perfectly; bringing it to an absolute pinnacle whereupon the sudden twist revelation ends the tale in a triumphant fashion.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth - 68 Pages
As a direct result of his ordeals within the ruined fishing village of Innsmouth in Massachusetts, an investigation commenced into the townsfolk and the troubling customs that were said to be practiced there.  For his harrowing experience in Innsmouth came about whilst seeking out and collating genealogical data within New England.  And so, arriving into the fishing village by way of the local bus service, our investigating traveller observes a freakish trait that he associates with the Innsmouth people.  A trait that has them look almost fish-like in appearance.  Finding a young clerk from nearby Arkham receptive to his questions, he starts to gather what information he can on the people and the town of Innsmouth.  A conversation that offers up the name of Zadok Allen – a local drunk whose loose tongue (when adequately lubricated) could prove to be very helpful to the curious investigator’s cause.  But the stories he hears from this crazed old drunk seem too farfetched to be believed.  Stories of great old gods known as the Deep Ones who live deep beneath the sea and are worshipped by the devoted townsfolk.  Stories of strange ceremonies and sacrifices to the gods.  Stories that chill the traveller’s blood.  And stories that are beginning to look like they have some truth behind them, after the traveller finds himself left stranded in Innsmouth for the most terrifying night of his life...

First published back in April of 1936, Lovecraft’s classic tale ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ was the only offering by the author to be published on its own and not as part of a periodical.  Furthermore, the tale has later been thought of as the author’s defining piece of work, becoming very possibly the best known tale by Lovecraft and very possibly the most highly revered.  And very rightly so.  The story is probably the most accomplished and resolved offering, with a truly terrifyingly oppressive atmosphere that haunts the reader throughout.  It’s claustrophobic and crammed with suspense.  There are bursts of intense nail-biting action and desperate fights for survival.  And perhaps most unnerving of all is Lovecraft’s near-believable incorporation of his Dagon-worshipping cult.  You’ll probably never want to step foot into a quaint little fishing-village again.

The Haunter Of The Dark - 25 Pages
The late Robert Blake was a writer and painter who enwrapped his creative work in fantastical images and explorations of the horrific and the equally bizarre.  And in his lifelong devotion to the strange and the perverse, Blake found his way to Providence, on Rhode Island, where his ghastly death brought his inquisitive life to an abrupt end.  But there remains more than just the mystery of the man’s death.  Blake’s diary speaks of a terrible and unbelievable story, as the man uncovered texts and secrets of secret cults and long-forgotten deities.  His diary speaks of horrors beyond the wildest imagination, which have existed in the farthest depths of darkness for countless eons.  And with Blake’s death, Doctor Ambrose Dexter starts to realise the horrifying truth behind the dead man’s words...

First published in ‘Weird Tales’ magazine back in December of 1936, Lovecraft’s short ‘The Haunter Of The Dark’ was a direct sequel to Robert Bloch’s earlier short story ‘The Shambler From The Stars’ that was published in ‘Weird Tales’ in September of 1935.  In Bloch’s story, a character who was clearly based on Lovecraft himself, met with an early death.  Lovecraft joined in with the goodhearted nature of this, killing Bloch off in his sequel under the character name of Robert Blake.  Bloch replied to this with one final part to the trilogy of stories in ‘The Shadow from the Steeple’ from September of 1950.

As a story, ‘The Haunter Of The Dark’ is an elaborate read, spending much of its time wallowing in the intricacies of the secret mythos that is being detailed through Blake’s diary.  As the tale delves deeper and deeper into the imaginative and unnerving fantastical world, so the cold tension starts to gradually mount.  It’s a slow story, which prefers to create a web of occultist weirdness, rather than to take the reader along a particularly action-rich or energetic path.  But it works.  And together with Bloch’s preceding and later stories, makes for a dark and imaginatively twisted tale of ancient gods and powerful cults.

The book runs for a total of 448 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Make a free website with Yola