Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Correspondence of Cameron Thadeus Nash

I don't guess it should surprise me that my favorite story (so far) in the new collection Black Wings of Cthulhu is by Ramsey Campbell. I've gone on record here before about how much I like and admire Campbell's work. Something I once read in an interview with Campbell impressed me very much. He said that he tried hard never to repeat himself, and considering the mass amount of short stories and novels he's written, he's done a fine job of fulfilling that goal. His new story, The Correspondence of Cameron Thadeus Nash is certainly different from anything else of Campbell's that I've read. It purports to be a group of letters to H.P. Lovecraft by the titular Mr. Nash. Campbell sets the letters up by saying that they were originally found by August Derleth, who sent copies to Campbell. At first they seem like other letters from Lovecraft's many corespondents, initially praising Lovecraft's stories and soliciting his help with the sender's own writing. We don't see Lovecraft's side of the correspondence but his answers can be inferred from what Nash says in reply. The first letters gush with praise. Nash seems almost desperate to let Lovecraft know that the two of them are kindred souls, dreamers in a world of hopelessly mundane people. But then slowly, as Nash fails to place any of his own work with Weird tales, he begins to accuse Lovecraft of stealing his ideas and keeping editor in chief Farnsworth Wright from buying any of his stories. Nash's missives become more frantic and disjointed as they go on, and it soon becomes obvious that Mr. Nash isn't playing with a full deck of Call of Cthulhu cards. Campbell does what so many horror writers fail to do. His story is genuinely disturbing. Campbell has a knack for creeping you out. Anyway, there are some other strong stories in the collection, but I found this one to be particularly fine, worth the price of the book all by itself.

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