Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Horror at Oakdeene and Others, by Brian Lumley

Arkham House, 1977
229 pp

I have been an avid collector of Arkham House books for quite a long time now and luckily got this like-new edition of The Horror at Oakdeene and Others a while ago.  The book is an anthology of eight stories written by Brian Lumley, whose early horror writings are among my favorites in the world of weird fiction and cosmic horror.  As is true in many anthologies, you take the excellent with the good with the not so hot in this collection, but when all is said and done, it's a pretty good conglomerate of weird fiction.  Lovecraft's influence can be felt throughout, but there is plenty here to mark Lumley's own writing style as well.

author Brian Lumley

The eight stories in the book (with a brief intro to each) are:

"The Viking's Stone"  -- featuring Titus Crow, Lumley's very own creation, about whom Lumley writes:  
"he is one to whom, in his unending search for mysteries and discoveries of marvels, the occult has been simply a passage down which his wanderings have taken him; where he has learned, on more than one occasion, outre things unheard of in the more mundane world of ordinary men. Crow may, in that snese, be called an occultist -- but so is he a most knowledgeable man and something of an expert in many fields."
In this story, Crow and his partner de Marigny get involved with a fellow scholar who is messing about with things he shouldn't and removes the "bautastein" (tomb marker)  of a bloodthirsty Viking when the runes say not to;  "Aunt Hester" finds a  young man going to visit his black-sheep aunt shunned by the rest of his family and in the process and  to his detriment he discovers why no one even speaks of her any more;  "No Way Home" is an eerie tale of a man who has been trying to find his way home for 15 years; this one is somewhat marred by its ending and although it started out like a hackle-raising ghost story it lost me at the finish.   The title story "The Horror at Oakdeene," finds Martin Spellman, an aspiring author who wants to do a compilation of "rare or outstanding mental cases," soaking up atmosphere  in  training as a nurse at Oakdeene Sanatorium.  Spellman tries to avoid the basement ward known as "Hell," where a fellow nurse may or may not have had anything to do with a patient's bizarre death.  Burglar William "Spotty" Morton decides to go back and finish something he'd started a year ago in  "The Cleaner Woman," but the perfect crime may still be out of his reach.  Quite possibly my favorite in the entire collection is "The Statement of Henry Worthy," a little reminiscent of HPL's Innsmouth adventures but with a clever and spooky twist.  This one takes place in the moors of Scotland, when Matthew Worthy, Henry's nephew, comes down to visit his uncle and to also follow in the footsteps of a lost botanist who had disappeared after finding a very unusual species of plant.  "Darghud's Doll" is another Titus Crow story, where Crow is not really involved in the action but shares a bizarre story about the power and  long reach of supernatural revenge. Ending this collection of stories is "Born of the Winds," a rather long, drawn-out account of a determined woman seeking her son in the frozen Canadian north.  This story started out fine but got kind of bogged down as Lumley combines a mix of mythologies that imho didn't match the state of hovering horror as much as the other stories in this book were able to.

All in all -- a pretty good volume of tales of terror influenced largely by HP Lovecraft; a highly-recommended must for collectors  if you're into Lumley or Lovecraft or this brand of cosmic horror/weird fiction.