Tag Archives: H. P. Lovecraft

Ah, Fair Carcosa: True Detective’s Weird Horror Connections

It took me a while, but I finally got around to watching HBO’s True Detective. Wow. This gritty, eight-episode detective series adroitly moves back and forward in time between 1995, 2002, and 2012. It focuses on two protagonists, Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), investigators for the Louisiana state police department. The story hinges on a 1995 murder investigation whose bizarre occult  overtones deepen with the discovery of the victim’s diary. In it she writes of strange rituals, and a place called Carcosa. Any fan of the weird fiction of H. P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos watching the show when Rust and Marty discover the journal would likely have stood up and taken notice of this immediately. “Did he just say ‘Carcosa‘?” Yes, he did.

The macabre nature of the focal crime scene, that word Carcosa, and the Southern Gothic flavor of creator Nic Pizzolatto’s vision of Louisiana combine to deliver an eerie mystery that takes its time unraveling and entertains you through every moment. So what is Carcosa? H. P. Lovecraft did not invent the term. Carcosa is a fictional place invented by Ambrose Bierce, and later adopted by Robert W. Chambers for his 1895 collection of short fiction entitled The King In Yellow. In it Mr. Chambers further detailed the “other-realm” of Carcosa and its chief inhabitant, The King In Yellow, an eponymous story in the collection. The idea of the King manifests in True Detective in the guise of the mysterious killer committing these hideous crimes.

I’ve read some of the material that inspired the show’s more macabre elements, and I thought I might share them here so folks could give them a try.

American Gothic: From Salem Witchcraft To H. P. Lovecraft, An Anthology edited by Charles L. Crow

The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

The Yellow Sign And Other Stories: The Complete Weird Tales Of Robert W. Chambers by Robert W. Chambers

The Thing On The Doorstep And Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft

The Watchers Out Of Time by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth

The White People And Other Stories by Arthur Machen

I’m also suffering from True Detective-withdrawal! So if anyone can recommend me a series like it, please do so in the comments field! Thanks!

–Scott P.


Yellow-Sign  American-GothicThingWhite-PeopleYellow-King2


Filed under Uncategorized

Top 10 Forgotten Classic Horror Writers

Horror_01Since it’s Halloween weekend, what better way to head off into the sunset, equipped with stakes, ouija board, silver bullets, garlic, etc., than a list of top ten favorite classic horror writers?

But not just any list.  Most of us know those: Stoker and Shelley and Poe and Lovecraft, etc. etc.  No, how about a top ten list of forgotten, or nearly forgotten, classic horror writers from the 19th and early 20th century.  In each case on the list below, I’ve recommended a single title as a starting point, but there are plenty more by each of these authors if you seek them out.

Arthur Machen  The Terror and Other Stories

Guy du Maupassant The Horla and Other Stories

E. T. A. Hoffman The Best Tales of Hoffmann

M. R. James Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories

Manly Wade Wellman After Dark

Robert W. Chambers  The King in Yellow

Lord Dunsany Tales of Three Hemispheres

William Hope Hodgson The House on the Borderland

F. Marion Crawford The Complete Wandering Ghosts

A. W. Merritt The Moon Pool

And two more, for good measure:

Algernon Blackwood The Best Supernatural Tales

Smith, Clark Ashton The End of the Story

Certainly, there is plenty of room for quibbling.   If a more famous name such as Maupassant appears, why not the horror fiction of Charles Dickens or Arthur Conan Doyle (frankly, there aren’t many stories more horrifying than A Christmas Carol, if truth be told)?  Lord Dunsany is known predominately for fantasy and E. T. A. Hoffmann for the German märchen or folktale.  Yet both extended a great influence individually on two of the greatest horror writers of all times: the former, Dunsany, on H. P. Lovecraft, and the later, Hoffmann, on Edgar Allan Poe.   And both knew how to tell a very chilling horror tale, indeed.

So, if you are sick of the same old, same old King or Koontz, if you’ve had it with book shelves seemingly packed with ubiquitous vampires and interminable zombies, if you’ve never heard of a werepanther and really don’t care to, why not take a look at some of the authors that helped create the modern horror story.  You won’t be sorry.

Or maybe you will …


P.S.  Though we have gotten the attention of our mayor and local and state representatives with the possible closing of 5 branches, this isn’t the time to let up.  Please continue to email, call, and talk to our representatives to let them know that the library needs long-term sustainable funding to keep our branches open and our all-important presence in communities across town.  Your effort is making a difference and we thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pulp Fiction: H. P. Lovecraft



Back in the day, libraries, like dictionaries, were prescriptive rather than descriptive.   Dictionaries, such as Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language and the Oxford English Dictionary, told you what words to use and how to use them.  Slang, when not excluded entirely, was largely discouraged, grammar just so, and obscenities were verboten.

No longer.   Today’s dictionaries are descriptive of all manner of words and how we use them.  Slang, obscenities, and incorrect grammar are all welcome.  They reflect the language as it is, ever changing, ever evolving, as is the culture from which it grows.

Similarly, libraries, particularly in the first half of the 20th century, recommended the best, and collected that which was considered of historical and cultural significance.  Today libraries, like dictionaries, act as virtual cultural mirrors; they reflect who we are, what we do, and what we like (and dislike).  Libraries and library collections describe the culture, they don’t dictate it.

Which brings us to the pulps.

Pulp fiction was largely ignored by libraries for the above stated reasons, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was certainly no exception.   As the culture changed, so did the libraries.  Like many other libraries across the country, the Carnegie has gone back retrospectively and filled in the gaps.  Welcome now, with open arms, are Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Robert E. Howard, Philip K. Dick, Dashiell Hammett, Ray Bradbury, Clark Ashton Smith, Erle Stanley Gardner and many, many more.

And, of course, most welcome is the grandaddy of them all, H. P. Lovecraft.

I’ve been a huge Lovecraft fan since my teen years, which coincided with the first resurgance of interest in HPL in the early 60’s, via mass market paperback editions from Ballantine Books.  What could be better?  They were flat-out horror: lurid, forbidden, suggestive, and, most of all, great fun.  Here is a list of my personal top ten favorite stories by Lovecraft:

At the Mountains of Madness and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward are both novellas, both as close to writing a full-length novel as Lovecraft would ever get.  Prior to reading At the Mountains of Madness, I would suggest reading his literary mentor Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket .  If you do, you’ll be hard put to forget the phrase “Tekeli-li.”   The rest of the above list is comprised of short stories which vary only in degree of shock and explicitness; it goes without saying, that compared to today’s splatter horror, they are mild in execution.  However, the archetypal elements in Lovecraft’s stories provide a deeper strain of psychological horror that can be hard to shake long after the story is finished.

Ironically, after many years of being ignored, a few pulp authors, including Lovecraft, have found themselves accepted into the canon of contemporary literature by way of publication by The Library of America.  Besides Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick have received this cultural imprimatur.

Unlike many a trapped protagonist in their stories, this recognition of the lasting value of pulp fiction is better, much better, late, than never.

 – Don


Filed under Uncategorized