There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Some regret was manifest: August Derleth tries M.R. James on for size.

"Here, Daemos!" by August Derleth


Beware the Beasts edited by Roger Elwood and Vic Ghidalia (1970)

Derleth here is aspiring to M.R. James, but the words and music, the setting and style, fall short.

Martin Webly was not the best choice for the parish at Millham, in the south country: a bustling, officious man of better than medium height, with a glint in his eye and determination apparent in the set of his jaw. The parish, however, had been spoiled almost into oblivion by the kindly ministrations of old Dr. Williamson, Webly's predecessor; that he had left finances in a deplorable state was not to be held against him, however much of a problem this might afford the new vicar. Indeed, there were certain people in the parish who held that a problem of this magnitude might be a good thing to help make smoother the edges of the Reverend Mr. Webly. Some regret was manifest....

From "The Treasure of Abbott Thomas" we get cursed buried treasure. From "Count Magnus" we catch site of the antagonist and his familiar:

....It was manifestly ridiculous that any kind of animal could be snuffling at his window. The vicar slept on the second floor, and the walls went straight down to the ground, with not even a vine up which something might crawl, much less the roof of a verandah. Yet, there it was, a peculiar, persistent snuffling, accompanied from time to time by an oddly muted whine or growl, and set all the time against that wild barking in the background. He got up at last, irritated, and went over to the window.

The window looked out upon the lane and the corner streetlight. Almost the first thing he saw was a man standing there; he stood a little in the shadow, and yet his face was clearly visible - a long, dark, saturnine face, with dark pools for eyes, not exactly a young man, and yet not seeming old except in the curious parchment-like quality of his gaunt features. It was not someone the vicar knew.

While he stood looking, the vicar observed that the stranger under the light was not alone; a large dog bounded out of the vicarage yard and came quietly to his side. It seemed to the vicar with a curious kind of thrill that man and dog both turned and looked for a moment intently at the window from which he peered outward before they turned and vanished in the dark direction of the churchyard.

"What a strange thing!" murmured the vicar.

Derleth puddles it all together and achieves a pleasing - if not satisfactory - imitation. At about ten pages it is  still preferable to his airless and stifling "collaborations" with Lovecraft. 

It's a shame the publishing house he founded could not release a reasonably priced, widely available volume of his short work.


23 May 2020

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