Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The Innswich Horror
It’s a dangerous proposition when a writer decides to pay homage to one of his influences by writing a story in the style of the other writer. Too often, personal style is lost in the mimicry, and the result is a bad imitation of the original.
Fortunately, Edward Lee handles this well in his new novel The Innswich Horror, and homage to H. P. Lovecraft. Lee manages to capture the Lovecraft atmosphere without abandoning what makes Lee one of the more original authors working today. The book is a tribute/semi-sequel to the Lovecraft classic “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”
Two years after the death of Lovecraft, Foster Morley is his biggest fan. Living in Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence, Morley has collected Lovecraft’s published work, and devotes himself to exploring the venues that influenced the stories. Morley is something of a Lovecraft protagonist, a refined gentleman of independent means, somewhat prim and prudish. On a bus trip, Morley stops at the hitherto unknown town of Olmstead (according to Lovecraft’s notes, the unnamed central character of “Shadow” was named Olmstead). He stops for a visit, and becomes intrigued by the parallels between the town, originally called Innswich, and the Innsmouth of the story. He also notices there are few young men in the village and that almost all of the women are pregnant. His investigations lead him to the realization that Lovecraft may not have had such an active imagination after all.
As I said before, Lee does a good job of balancing his own style with that of Lovecraft. The tone reads like the Master, but with a fair amount of the sex and violence found in Lee’s own work, certainly more sex and violence than is found in all of Lovecraft’s work combined. Meanwhile, some of the excesses of Lee’s work have been blunted, the need to conform to the Lovecraft model tempering the need to top previous work in order to please fans. This is the best Edward Lee book I’ve read in some time, although his recent work is quite good. While Morley has the background of a Lovecraft character, he is bolder and more resourceful, carrying a gun and willing to fight the monstrosities he encounters (Lovecraft’s heroes were noted for fainting when confronted with horror).
All in all, if you like Edward Lee or H. P. Lovecraft, you will enjoy The Innswich Horror. There is a catch, however. Other than a small run of lettered editions, the only copies went to the 652 subscribers to the 2008 Cemetery Dance book club, so it will be hard to find. I think it is worth the effort, if the price isn’t too exorbitant.
A word on that book club. I paid $199 (which included shipping and handling) to receive 13 books from Cemetery Dance. While some of them took a little longer than originally hoped, this was a very good deal. I received books from Ray Bradbury, Simon Clark, Ronald Kelly, Al Sarrantonio and others, discovered Norman Prentiss who has become a favorite new author, and received exclusive books from Edward Lee and Douglas Clegg. This was money very well spent.
Edit: A tip of the fedora to my friend Kent Gowran: A more affordable trade paperback will be available from Deadite Books sometime in the near future, which is good news.