Sonntag, 30. September 2012

The Lovecraftian cover art of Gervasio Gallardo and Murray Tinkelman.

Or “Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover”.

I’ve been working again in the garden all day. Now that autumn is here there’s a lot to cut back and dig up. So I’m not in a great mood to do any story reviews today. I’ll have a lot more time to write reviews once the weather turns bad in a few weeks. I hope that all of you are cool with this.

I’ve been reading H. P. Lovecraft since 1971 when on my way home from school I found a copy of “The Shadow over Innsmouth and Other Horror Stories” that someone had lost. This was a genuine case of “their loss, my gain”.  This was the HPL collection that they were peddling to little kids through the “Scholastic Book Club”.  The “Scholastic Book Club” was also my first introduction to Poe, Wells, Finney, Kersh, Collier and Stoker. Not bad stuff for a publisher specializing in affordable paperbacks for grade schoolers!

The cover to the Scholastic edition wasn’t anything to write home about, but it didn’t detract from the reading experience either. I’ve always believed that a great cover can’t save a bad book, even if it does help with the sales though. The great artwork of the legendary “Frank Frazetta” has graced the cover of many a shitty novel. A poor choice of artwork can’t ruin a good book either, even if it might hinder sales. Once in a while there is that rare and special thing though. You have the perfect mating of cover artist and author. This is a wonderful thing when it happens. Luckily this happened twice with the Ballantine Lovecraft editions of the early 1970s. The covers of the Lovecraft paperbacks published by Ballantine books during the early 1970s had cover art by “Gervasio Gallardo” and “Murray Tinkelman”. Both of these men took the Lovecraft themed artwork way beyond the typical gothic horror covers that had been used for earlier HPL editions. Both of these artists were able to evoke the mood of otherworldiness that played such a huge part of Mr. Lovecraft’s writings. The later covers by “Michael Whelan” in the 1980s are iconic in their own right, but he only manages to invoke the uniqueness of HPL’s vision as far as his horror stories are concerned. Sadly Mr. Whelan does not manage to tap above the underlying current of strangeness or otherness that ran through all of Mr. Lovecraft’s writings and not just his straight out horror stories. So, for me at least, Mr. Whelan’s cover art doesn’t manage to tap into the heart of what makes these stories so very special to me.  Mr’s Gallardo and Tinkelman have managed this perfectly, as far as I am concerned. And in closing, the less we say about the later 1970s cover by “John Holmes” the better. Don’t get me wrong though, no matter what your taste in art is, all 4 of these men were/are master artists and illustrators. And not just graphic designers who seem to be doing all of today’s book art.

Unless other wise stated these are all scans of my own books.

 The cover art of "Gervasio Gallardo"

 I'll bet a 100 bucks that that's a "B. Dalton" on my copy of Kadath!

Not mine

Not mine.

The cover art of "Murray Tinkelman"

                                 Not mine.                                            Not mine, but a copy's on it's way! :-)

                             The inside cover illustrations by Mr. tinkelman.

The Horror in the museum

The Dream quest of Unknown Kadath

      The Mask of Cthulhu

 The Doom that came to Sarnath

The Trail of Cthulhu

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Take care and thanks for stopping by!


Starting next week I’ll be doing at least 2 Halloween themed posts. I can’t believe that it’s already Octobers-Eve. It’s been a fast year.

Montag, 24. September 2012

Dark Gods by T.E.D. Klein

Pan Books. 1987

                            My UK edtion from 1987 with a truly stupid cover that doesn't do this book justice.

                                                                    The original 1986 US edition.


"Children of the Kingdom"
"Black Man with a Horn"
"Nadelman's God"

I’m pushing the edge here as far as my own personal concept of “vintage” goes. I’m telling myself that any one younger than 40 would consider a 25 year old book to be “vintage”, so I’ll let it slide.

“DARK GODS” has to be one of the finest single author horror collections I’ve ever read and definitely the finest H. P. Lovecraft inspired collection ever. Mr. Klein has taught written and even edited the old “Twilight Zone Magazine. Sadly due to writers block he has written very little. Aside from “DARK GODS” he has published one novel, Ceremonies, and only a few the short stories, including "The Events at Poroth Farm" which “Ceremonies” is based on.

Interesting trivia: Mr. Klein’s full name is Theodore "Eibon" Donald Klein. He addes The name “Eibon” as a nod to “Clark Ashton Smith” and to Mr. Smith’s fictional Wizard “Eibon” and his self named tome of forbidden knowledge “The Book of Eibon”. This allowed Mr. Klein to have a cool by-line of “T.E.D.”.

I read two of the novellas included in this collection prior to 1986. I read “Children of the Kingdom back in 1981 in the classic anthology “Dark Forces” and “Black Man with a Horn” two years later in “New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos” in 1983.

And now to the novellas…….

“Children of the Kingdom”

CotK takes place in New York during the lates 70s or early 80s prior to a massive summer power outage/black out. It deals with NYC basically being invaded by a race of subterranean half humans who reproduce in the oddest way. This story unfolds nicely through 2 parallel plot threads. The first one deals with a young man and his elderly Grandfather. Gramps gets moved into a senior citizens apartment complex in a neighbourhood slowly being taken over by swarthy foreigners and other undesirable types. This is a nice intentional nod to Mr. Lovecraft’s issues with multiculturalism. Gramps and the young man make friends with a  costa Rican priest who is writing a “true” history of the races. It seems that there was once a half human civilization in what would become Costa Rica. It seems that they were punished by the gods for being so warlike. The Gods removed their penises and forced them underground. The 2nd thread in the story deals with a series of strange occurrences centered on the sewer system. I wonder if they could be somehow connected with the old priest’s histories. Read it and find out!


A couple buy themselves an old house in the country at a bargain price.  Actually it’s a steal since the husband gets the house through a crooked highway planning scam.
It’s seems a madman lived there with his “pet/adoptive child” and no one has been feeding it since it’s “father” was sent to a mad house when he refused to sell his home to the highway commission. And when “Petey” gets hungry he becomes very angry. The folks at the new owners house warming party are about to find out.

“Black Man with a Horn”

This is a great story. It thinks it’s the best “Cthulhu Mythos” story ever written by someone else other tham Mr. Lovecraft. A pulp writer, and acquaintance of HPL, finds out the maybe Mr. Lovecraft wasn’t making up all of his stories. I’m not going to say more. This is a wonderful mystery, Mythos tale and character study. The old pulp is writer is based on “Frank Belknap Long” which adds that certain touch of realism and authenticity. Find this story and read it! I can’t even begin to describe how good it is!

Here is what "World Fantasy Award" winner Darrell Schweitzer recently said in a discussion about this story and Mr. Klein....

" A great story. The protagonist is obviously based on Frank Belknap Long. Klein had a knack for making serious literature out of what would have in most peoples' hands been fanfic. If only he were still writing!"

“Nadelman’s God”

 I just love “OMG! I’ve help create a monster!” kinds of stories.
 Mr. Nadelman is a self satisfied ass of an Advertising executive who was a pretentious gothic poet during his college years. It now seems that a Heavy Metal Band wants to use one of his old poems on their new album. He’s flattered and says yes. Unfortunately an unbalanced fan takes the song literally and follows the directions given in it to create a new “god”, a god of death and despair for the modern age. This succeeds beyond the fans wildest dreams. Sadly he can’t control what he has called up and it goes searching for its true creator. The nice since of unstoppable doom makes this one tough to read.

You can consider yourself extremely lucky if you can get your hands on a copy of this book. Every single one of these 4 novellas pays off in spades! If you love HPL, then the pay off is even higher. Believe me, this book is that good! Now go out there and get searching!

Take care.
And thanks for stopping by!



Dienstag, 18. September 2012

A bothersome Question has been answered!

Thank you sir!

Sonntag, 16. September 2012

For the Love of Brain Lumley

I’m not ashamed to admit that as far as I’m concerned, Mr. Brian Lumley is one of the greatest horror writers who has ever lived. Mr. Lumley started writing when he was a MP with the Royal Army in the late 1960s stationed in Berlin. He wrote some Lovecraftian pastiches and excerpts from volumes of forbidden lore in his free time and decided to send them off to “August Derleth”. Mr. Derleth wrote back requesting more. Mr. Lumley’s first volume of short stories “The Caller of the Black” was published by “Arkham House” in 1971 and the rest is history.

 Even though it is just part of his complete works, Mr. Lumley is most famous for his “Necroscope” series which details a secret war against vampires who’ve come to the earth through an inter-dimensional doorway. These are great books that simply got wilder and crazier with each new volume. I’m more interested in his other writings though. Mr. Lumley has written SF Horror, Sword & Sorcery, Cthulhu Mythos stories, straight up horror and a mixture of all of these. Mr. Lumley will be turning 75 years old at the beginning of December, but I wanted to thank him and wish him “Happy Birthday” a little bit early.

What I’ve always enjoyed about Mr. Lumley’s stories is that they are simply unpretentious fun! He’s not a stylist or an “artiste”. He is simply a master story teller who honestly seems to love what he writes. And I love what he writes too!


p.s. And many thinks to Mr. Thomas Broadbent of Providence Rhode Island  for making me think a lot a about Mr. Lumley this past week.

Here are some of my Lumley's
They're only 20-25 years old, so I'm kind of torn on weither I should call these vintage or not.

 Take care and thanks for stopping by.


Mittwoch, 12. September 2012

The Red Brain (and other creepy thrillers)
Selected by Dashiell Hammett
Belmont books 1961. $0.35

                                         My copy of the 1691 Belmont edition.
The Contents:

Introduction - Dashiell Hammett
John Collier - Green Thoughts
Robert Dean Frisbie - The Ghost Of Alexander Perks, A. B.
Peter Fleming - The Kill
Peter MacDonald - Ten O'Clock
L. A. G. Strong - Breakdown
S. Fowler Wright - The Rat
Irvin S. Cobb - Faith, Hope And Charity
H. P. Lovecraft - The Music Of Erich Zann
Donald Wandrei - The Red Brain
W. Elwyn Backus - The Phantom Bus


                                                                      The UK edtion from Four Square

                                  The companion volume from Belmont which completes the original anthology

The original 1931 Hardcover edition.

I’m posting a lot later than usual because I honestly do try to re-read each book before I write about it and I haven’t had as much free time these past weeks.

Anyways, I enjoyed this anthology a lot more than I thought I would.  I was thinking that even though Mr. Hammett was a world class mystery writer he might not be the best anthologist of horror stories. Happily he proved me wrong.
 Regarding this collection, as old as my Belmont edition is, the original anthology is even older and originally appeared way back in 1932 as “Creeps by Night”. I find the originally title much better.  I mean, the original has me asking myself is “creeps” what the stories do or are there actually those who “creep” by night or lastly, are there those who are Creeps at night? It doesn’t really matter though. This is a fairly strong anthology that contains stories that haven’t been heavily anthologized. And rarely anthologized stories are always seen as good things here at the Bunker.
 I like the cover a lot. It’s dark and colorful at the same time. Sadly I have no idea who the artist is.

Now let’s take a look at the stories.

John Collier - Green Thoughts

     I’m starting to become a big John Collier fan. This is the fourth one of his stories that I’ve read this year and they’ve all been good fun with a mean little streak of nastiness running through them. Mr. Mannering inherits the effects of a late friend who disappeared on an Amazon expedition. One of the items is a plant bulb which he promptly plants in his green house. This quickly grows into an extremely large Orchid type plant, the kind of which Mr. Mannering has never seen before. He finds out to his own peril that this plant is carnivorous and can procure its own meals. First housse pets and then household members disappear until Mr. Bannering himself falls victim to the plant. It seems that once a meal has been digested it re-appears as a sentient bud on the Orchid. This doesn’t seem to bother Mr. Bannering much until his hated and sadistic nephew inherits his estate. Reading this I have the funny feeling that “Little Shop of Horrors” isn’t such an original story after all. This is an enjoyable story with a nasty and somewhat unexpected end.

Robert Dean Frisbie -The Ghost Of Alexander Perks, A.B.

     This is a semi-comic story regarding the titular ghost who is haunting a tramp steamer. “A.B.” means “Able Bodies Seaman”. We discover that a ghost abandoning a ship is even worse than when the rats do.  You would never imagine that suicide because of loneliness could be actualy be the driving force behind a fairly humorous ghost story. I liked this one. It even has a fairly happy end. At least no one dies.

Peter Fleming - The Kill

     A young man stranded in a isolated train station shares the story of the recent events which took place on his Uncle’s estate with the only other passenger stranded with him. It’s seems his Uncle sired an illegitimate son with a servant girl who he neglected and had sent away. The bastard son turns out to be a werewolf (through a curse his mother placed on the narrators Uncle.) who has returned to kill any heirs of the Uncle. The Uncle had disinherited his nephew and had as his heir a female companion. She ends up killed and eaten. This, the nephew explains, makes him once again the Uncle’s heir. The silent stranger react strangely when he here’s of this change in the Uncle’s Will. You can, I hope, see where this is going. Even if the ending was telegraphed from a great distance I still enjoyed the story.

Peter MacDonald -
Ten O'Clock

     This was an odd one which, for my tastes, took too long of a time getting to the end. A wealthy young lawyer cuts short his vacation in the country side to return to London so that he can be reunited with his mistress. He promises to call on her at 10 P.M exactly. While waiting to go to her he is called upon for legal advice from a merchant seaman who seems to have troubles with a lover who jilted him for a wealthy man. It seems that the trouble is that the seaman has murdered this woman. While he is so anxious to get to his rendezvous with his lover, the lawyer advises his visitor to turn himself in to the police. The young man also promises to act as the sailors advocate during the trial. The seaman thanks him and takes his leave. The young lawyer notices that it’s now almost 10 P.M. and won’t arrive at the promised time. He telephones his mistress, but no one answers. He then notices the hatbox that the seaman seems to have left behind. Hmmmm? What could be in it? Except that this story was printed 20 years to early it could have come straight from the pages of an old EC horror comic. It’s a nice story that sadly telegraphs the payoff much too soon.

L. A. G. Strong – Breakdown

     This is an odd one. A man wishes to murder his mistress in his own home and comes up with one of the most convoluted means of establishing an alibi. It gave me a headache just trying to follow his plan. Why he just doesn’t kill the woman some place else and dispose of the body was a huge nagging question while reading the story. Since his plan is for him and his wife to return from a day trip and discover the body in their living room when they return. That drove me crazy. The murder seen is particularly grisly and nerve racking. Once they return home with his alibi in palace it seems the body has vanished along with all signs of the crime. This quickly drives him to a nervous breakdown where he confesses everything to his wife with surprising results. I have to admit that I didn’t see the ending coming. That alone makes this story extremely rewarding the first time you read it. Hat’s of to L.A. G. Strong!!

S. Fowler Wright - The Rat

     A man on a sea voyage gets stranded on a rocky atoll in the middle of the ocean with very meagre supplies, hardly any hope of rescue. His only companion is the titular rat and it wants his food supply. As you expect, a battle of wills ensues between the two.  This is a somewhat depressing story with a very satisfying ending.

Irvin S. Cobb - Faith, Hope and Charity
     3 criminals escape while being transported across the south western U. S. to be deported and eventually executed in the prospective countries. They come to realize that each of them is kept alive by a belief in one of the 3 positive (positive that is, in their own twisted logic.) traits mentioned above in the title of the story. We also learn that each faces a different form of punishment. Each one also believes that the punishment that he faces is much worse than the methods facing the other two. Through the course of the story each man meets his doom in a way reflecting how he is supposed to be executed or punished. These dooms are brought about to each man by way of what he perceives as being his driving motivational trait. This one reads like “John Steinbeck” when he was in a very bad mood.  This one was a nice surprise with honest satisfaction at the end.

H. P. Lovecraft - The Music of Erich Zann

     This is an outstanding early HPL story which displays the beginnings of what would be major themes in his stories. A destitute student lives in a very old neighbourhood at the top of a large hill in an unnamed, but obviously French city.
In the room above his lives old Eric Zahn who plays very strange music at night on his violin. The young student befriends the old musician and learns that the old man can use his music to open up a gateway tot the outer spheres and call down the entities that exist there. Of course things end badly with the old man devoured and the student rushing out in the night half insane with fear. He returns the next day only to discover that the entire section of town has not only disappeared, but seems to have never existed!  I get a big kick out of this story every time I read it.  The entire story just reeks of “lovecraftian” ideas without getting to hysterical or wandering over in to unintentional self parody. Even if this can’t be considered one of Mr. Lovecraft’s best stories I do consider it to be some of his best writing. It has 100% of his weirdness while still marinating great self control in writing style and structure.

Donald Wandrei - The Red Brain

Mr. Wandrei was the co-founder of Arkham House Publishing

     Antares, incredibly far into the future at the end of time, is the last existing star with a planet supporting life. All of the other stars in the entire universe have turned to dust that is choking out the entire universe. The beings from the Antares system have evolved into huge brains that live by pure thought alone. They attempt to turn back the death of the universe by creating artificial brains that has greater intellects and problem solving skills than their own. These experiments in creating artificial intellects finally reach their highest level of perfection with the creation of the greatest intellect the Universe has ever seen. This being is the Red Brain. The Red Brain has the mental and psychic powers to restore life to the dying Universe. There is only one problem though……………………………………………………….

                                 The Red Brain was mad!

W. Elwyn Backus - The Phantom Bus

     A man whole recently lost his fiancé in bus crash begins to notice every day, a few minutes before it arrives, that his bus will be preceded by an old decrepit black bus similar to the make in which his fiancé died. No one ever gets on or off of this mysterious bus. This mystery finally drives him into taking this mystery bus himself so that he can find out what its destination is. This turns out to not be a very good idea.
 Reads like an old time radio show.  It’s an ok story with no surprises.

Well that’s it for this week. I’ll try to get back on my weekly schedule as soon as possible.