The Lurking Fear: The Complete Lovecraft #37

Old tentacle hugger has inspired a lot of writers over the years. He’s also inspired an awful lot of bands. There is definitely something about Lovecraft and musicians. Not that I can claim to be above the occasional musical reference in these blog posts, as regular reads may have noticed… (Yes, I know ‘The Hound‘ which I covered last time read like the hitchhikers guide to my record collection…) As such it would be remiss, for me not to mention that if you google ‘The Lurking Fear‘ the first things that pops up is not the H.P.Lovecraft tale, but the Swedish death metal supergroup… Yes, its a supergroup, as they were formed by a bunch of death metal artists from influential and successful Swedish death metal bands, several of which even I have heard of… What is it about the Scandinavians and heavy metal? Must be the Viking in them… They are, it has to be said, my usual cup of Earl Grey, while I can appreciate it, I would seldom listen to more than a couple of tracks in a row, but I can recognise good death metal when I hear it. And this is damn good death metal, so if it’s in your ballpark give them a listen, there is a link further down to the wonderfully Lovecraftian track ‘The Starving Gods of Old’… But back to the ‘literary’ review…

With ‘The Lurking Fear‘ Lovecraft is back up in the Catskill mountains, he has a real thing about the Catskills, or at least about the people living there. He is as unpleasant about the locals in this tale as he was in ‘Beyond The Wall of Sleep ‘. Specifically, he refers to them as…

…a degenerate squatter population inhabiting pitiful hamlets on isolated slopes. Normal beings seldom visited the locality…

Normal, in this regard I suspect means White New England Presbyterians. Lovecraft, as I have mentioned occasionally, but not as often as I might have done, was a man whose opinions on politics, race and gender don’t sit well with my own sentiments. I read him with my eyes wide open to his failings, and a certain degree of the forgiveness for living in a different time, but occasionally he can offend me even with the allowances I make for a writer from the 1920’s. Let’s just say the name of the narrator’s black cat in the next story I will be reviewing is reminiscent of the name of the dog from the ‘Dambusters’, and from a 21st century point of view as reprehensible, but I get ahead of myself, that’s for the next post in this series… Suffice to say that Lovecraft’s characters opinions about the people of the Catskill’s are consistent enough whenever they crop up in his fiction that one can only suspect it reflects his own views very closely, and they are not pleasant opinions… Indeed, on occasion the views are a tad more horrifying than the stories…

lurking

The Lurking fear centres around an old mansion in the mountains, that once belonged to rich Dutch immigrant landowners, the Martense mansion is one of those places that abound in Lovecraft’s fiction, an abandoned half ruin of which there are many forboding local legends. Forboding legends, the locals at least believe have more than a grain of truth to them, given recent events the narrator mentions, including the massacre of a whole village one stormy night which has led both the narrator and a flood of reporters to the region. It’s odd that the narrator spends so much of this story belittling the humanity of the locals, (he is very fond of the word ‘degenerate’) but he puts a great deal of weight to the locals tales, he is, however, a man who describes himself as having a:

love of the grotesque and the terrible…

and of having:

made my career a series of quests for strange horrors in literature and in life

So I suspect he is a man used to listening to those he considers ‘degenerate’ when he wants something from them. isn’t that always the way…

This is another tale that is separated into several parts as it was originally published as a serial. Unlike the first of these ‘Herbert West,’ it doesn’t suffer from recapping at the start of each part, which is a blessing. It does, however, lack ‘Reanimators‘ slightly quirky charm. More importantly perhaps, neither does it have the sense of progression you get in Herbert West. In part that can be explained away by the shorter time span, Herbert’s tale covers a decade or more, whereas the events in The Lurking Fear take place over the course of a couple of months, but it is a poorer story for it. Where Herbert West charts a descent into depravity and madness by the main character that carries the story through its various threads, this feels more like a few short stories strategically nailed together with a common narrative to make a longer tale. There really is no reason you could not treat the four parts as separate tales if you wanted to. It reads as if Lovecraft did so when he wrote it…

The narrator managed to survive each episode, unlike whomever the ‘hero’ gets to tag along with him, who die off like red shirts on an away mission. Which is one of the problems, new characters are introduced as no more than fodder for the monster to kill, and you realise this very quickly because the author doesn’t invest much in them either, by the third episode the redshirts don’t even get names… The monsters themselves are cave dwell mole like bestial creatures that it’s hinted are the descendant of the Martense family. As they share a common weirdness of eye colour with the family. Which is in part where this whole tale started to lose me. Unlike most Lovecraft, it both tries to explain itself or refuses to explain itself in equal measure, this story tries to do both and fails.

The final tipping point was when the narrator realised that the strange mounds of earth appearing around the mountains were ‘molehills‘. My normally perfectly suspended sense of disbelief sunk without trace. Yet despite explaining too much (a rare charge for a Lovecraft story) it utterly fails to explain why any of this had anything to do with thunderstorms. Yet it trails that ‘thunderstorm’ motif throughout the story. This second serial style story, written by the tenants of the serial fails in all the ways that Herbert West doesn’t. So I suspect Lovecraft was far fonder of this tale than Herbert West which he always disparaged. It left me distinctly underwhelmed, so much so that I read through it only once, (normally i read them all at least twice before I write these reviews.) It is not the first time this has happened, but unlike other tales, I did not want to reread this one was simply because I was bored by it, perhaps because from a longer format I wanted more depth than this story held.

Someone somewhere loves this story, but that someone is not me, unfortunately. As such it gets only a couple of tentacles, but not to worry, ‘The Rats in the Walls’ is next… And all will be forgiven…

2out-6

Back to Music, as promised here’s Swedish Death metals finest…

But as I said, Lovecraft inspires a lot of music, so in another vain, here is another Lurking fear, by Graham Plowman, who has a whole album of orchestral  Lovecraft inspired music. So Lurking Fear for all tastes… Remarkably I like both…

Further Lovecraftian witterings 

This entry was posted in horror, Lovecraft, music, mythos, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, retro book reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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