Friday, March 20, 2015

Pulp Macabre:The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Era

   At first glance, the art of Lee Brown Coye may seem simple, even crude or cartoonish, with its warped figures and odd shapes. But the more you look at it, the more you begin to see that Coye, like many great artists, isn't trying to reproduce what we commonly refer to as reality. No, he's creating his own reality.
   Coye is mostly known for his work illustrating horror stories and his art is genuinely creepy. I found the experience of paging through the new book, PULP MACABRE, and seeing that many of Coye's drawings back to back, was actually unsettling, like reading a good horror story, or watching a disturbing film. Not many artists can evoke that kind of reaction with pen, ink, and scratch board.
   This new book, subtitled 'The Art of Lee Brown Coye's Final and Darkest Era, covers the time when Coye was illustrating two books for Carcosa Press under the editorship of horror great Karl Edward Wagner. In some ways Wagner may have even set this 'darkest era' in motion, encouraging Coye to dig deep for his most gruesome drawings. The shadow of Wagner hangs over the book. There are photos of Wagner visiting Coye's studio and quotes from Wagner about his meetings with Coye, and of course references to the two Carcosa books, WORSE THINGS WAITING and MURGUNSTRUMM AND OTHERS, as well as an intended third book, DEATH STALKS THE NIGHT that was meant for Carcosa, but waited in limbo for almost twenty years before finally being published by Fedogan and Bremer.
   But mainly there are the drawings. Vampires and ghosts and ghouls and demons and nameless things that lurk in the dark. All portrayed in that stark, relentless style that Coye did so well. And there are the latticeworks of sticks that appeared in Coye's work after a strange encounter in the woods, described in an afterword to the story STICKS, which Karl Edward Wagner wrote based on what Coye had told him. That isn't covered in PULP MACABRE, but STICKS is probably KEW's most reprinted story, (And the probable inspiration for not only THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT but certain segments of HBO's  recent hit show, TRUE DETECTIVE.) so it should be easy to track down for those who seek after such dark secrets.
   Anyway, PULP MACABRE, which was edited by Mike Hunchback and Caleb Braatten, is a wonderfully dark and creepy look into the mind of an artist who was a true original. Just don't look at it for too long late at night.


Paul R. McNamee said...

If Coye remotely touched on something like "Sticks" it's no doubt he'd produce some dark art!

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Paul, the first quarter of the story, right up to where the protagonist goes down into the cellar of the old house, is almost exactly what happened to Coye.