Monday, March 05, 2012

Just Plain Scary

Last year, when I was reading through the volumes of DAW's The Year's Best Horror Stories, I kept track of which stories I found really scary. My favorite of these was From a Lower Deep by Hugh B. Cave. I was somewhat familiar with Cave, but hadn't read much of his stuff aside from some of his oldest pulp work. I have since corrected this and what I have discovered is that Cave has written some of the just plain scariest horror stories I've ever come across. I was reminded of this recently as I read through my Whispers anthologies. Cave has stories in four of the six volumes and two of them, The Door Below and Ladies in Waiting, are true spine chillers. Over the weekend I read some more of Cave's stories from the Carcosa collection, Murgunstrumm and Others, including Cave's two contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, The Isle of Dark Magic and The Death Watch and I was reminded again of what a solid writer cave was. His style is very straightforward, without a lot of bells and whistles, but his storytelling momentum seldom flags, even when you're trying to dig your heels in and keep him from showing you the horrible things that wait on the next page.
I was talking to Cliff about Cave and he agreed that Cave is another vastly underrated horror writer, like Manly Wade Wellman and Joseph Payne Brennan. I'm really glad once again, that my study of the work of Karl Edward Wagner has led to my discovery of Cave and the others.
I have two collections of Hugh B. Cave's stories on the way, The Door Below and Death Stalks the Night. The second book was actually planned as the fifth Carcosa volume but it wasn't released and was later brought out by Fedogan and Bremer. I also have one of Cave's novels heading my way. Hopefully I can save some of this for Halloween.
Anyway, if you haven't tried Hugh B. Cave, track some of his stuff down. But leave the lights on.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree.
Did you read Stragella? That was one of KEW's favorites. Almost as good as the feverishly gothic Murgunstrumm.
Cave was also one of the few authors who could really work the Weird Menace formula (seen in Terror Tales and Horror Stories, among others) and get a strong, memorable story out of it. There's always a couple eerie, striking details that rise off the page at you and stick in the memory.
There's one tale in particular, the name escapes me, where a mysterious, alluring woman leads the hapless hero into a subterrean maze beneath Smalltown, USA. This story is so dreamlike, yet realilstic, that it's haunted me for years. Gotta dig that one out of the archives.

John Hocking

Paul R. McNamee said...

On the e'wishlist. Thanks, Charles.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

John, I haven't read Stragella yet, I will make it this evening's reading and report back. Let me know what the other story was when you find it, please.

Paul, glad to be of assistance. I had forgotten that Murgumstrumm and Others was available as an e-book. Thanks for putting up the link. Now more folks can read Cave!