Though I can tell you just how I discovered the writing of Robert E. Howard, I can't recall exactly how I started reading H.P. Lovecraft. Oh, I can tell you the name of the first Lovecraft book I read, but not why I decided to read it. I think Stephen King's 1981 non-fiction book, DANSE MACABRE had something to do with it. However, just this week, and rather by accident, I was reminded of another piece of the puzzle. A movie that never got made called THE CRY OF CTHULHU.
I'd read about the projected movie (pun intended) in Starlog Magazine
issue #24 in 1979 and I recall looking at some pictures of stop motion
monster models and wondering what was the deal with this Lovecraft guy.
I'd seen paperbacks at the bookstore with his name on them, but the
covers had never appealed to me. Still, the article gave me the idea
that there might be something interesting about Lovecraft's creations.
I'd actually forgotten this until someone posted the three page article
over on a Lovecraft Facebook group and then it all came back to me.
Funny how memory works.
That would have been the end of it, except being me I did some
internet searching for more info on CRY OF CTHULHU and I learned that
Byron Craft, the writer of the screenplay for CRY, had turned the script
into a novel called THE ALCHEMIST'S NOTEBOOK and that the book was
available for the Kindle. I read the plot synopsis and it sounded like
fun, so I ordered the book and gave it a read.
It was indeed a lot of fun, though I had a couple of issues. Nothing
major and I'll get to them in a moment. The main story idea is about a
young couple who inherit an old house near The Black Forest in Germany.
They fly over and begin to renovate the house but then strange things
start to happen.
The novel is written in three sections and the first, narrated by the
wife, is probably the creepiest. Left at home all day while her husband
goes to his new job, she begins to experience strange dreams and to see
some odd things. This section builds the tension sort of like a Gothic
romance novel, with the young woman wondering about her sanity.
The second part is the text of the diary of the titular alchemist and
this is probably the most Lovecraftian part of the book with references
to Arkham, Innsmouth, Miskatonic University, and The Necronomicon. So
far, so good.
Part three, the husband's story, was where things started to fall
apart for me. The first several pages lose the creep factor that the
first two thirds of the book had built up and become more fantasy like.
It reminded me more of August Derleth or Brian Lumley than Lovecraft.
Nothing wrong with either of these writers, but the concepts of good
elder beings, bad elder beings, and Elementals are Derleth's for the
most part and not the stuff I really like about the extended Cthulhu
Mythos. That's my main quibble, and as I say, it's no big deal. It
didn't keep me from enjoying the book.
In fact, I enjoyed it quite a bit, because the Lovecraft references do fly fast and furious and there are cool nods to many of Lovecraft's
stories, without being and adaptation of any of them. Had this actually
been a movie it would have been the most Lovecraftian thing put on
screen up until that point. Pity that it never got out of
pre-production. Anyway, THE ALCHEMIST'S NOTEBOOK is a fun Cthulhu Mythos
novel. Fast moving and doesn't take itself too seriously. Craft says
he's writing a sequel and I'll check that out too.