Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Lurking Fear

"The Lurking Fear", first published in Home Brew vol 2, no. 6, vol 3 no 3, January to April 1923

This is the the eighth entry in my read through of the commemorative edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.

I first read this one in the titular Del Rey collection, the cover of which accompanies this article. That's a great cover, that one, very fitting for this story.

We're firmly in Lovecraft country now. This one happens in the Catskill Mountains, and features inbreeding, grisly death and a general sense of misanthropy that pervades a lot of his work. Fans of the Call of Cthulhu RPG will appreciate the narrator's gradual slide into madness and the method he uses to finally resolve the problem of the Lurking Fear.

If this one has a problem, it's one that's common to the RPG: what is he doing at this scene of madness and why does he stay? In the first paragraph, he admits to a “love of the grotesque and the terrible which has made my career a series of quests for strange horrors in literature and in life.” That's his whole motivation, and it keeps it him here long after any saner man would have fled. I can hear any number of the guys I've played D&D with over the years frowning and saying “What are doing here again?” every time this character protests his urgent need to stay in the face of certain death. This robs him of a little sympathy.

Maybe it's just that I've read this before, but Lovecraft doesn't quite the tension going in this one. The cliff hanger for the first part is how could the Lurking Fear have snatched the narrator's colleagues (fellow players) while he slept, but it's kind of obvious that there's more than one creature, and the narrator seems a bit dense. The last scene is quite effective, because I think I was expecting a family group like in The Hills have Eyes, not hundreds of the things.

This is a four parter, another one written for Home Brew, the humour magazine put out by his amateur press acquaintance George Julian Houtain. An H P Lovecraft Encyclopedia tells us that, at Lovecraft's request, the original was illustrated by Clark Ashton Smith who “had some fun by drawing trees and vegetation in the shape of genitalia.” Some jokes are just timeless, aren't they?

As it happens, what do I find when I search for the book cover image? There's a movie! And it looks awesome!

Free trivia: “Frenzy's Jon Finch” is also The Final Program's Jerry Cornelius.

Next up "The Hound"

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