Prolific British horror/fantasist Lumley follows up his excruciatingly creepy Fruiting Bodies and Other Fungi (1993) with a second volume of reprints that includes a short novel.
Lumley has a huge following for his ongoing Necroscope series (11 whopping volumes so far), plus two other series. The current gathering rounds up stories from as far back as 1967, three of them from Weird Tales, others from other fantasy magazines and from Kirby McCauley’s 1976 hardcover collection, Fright. As Lumley tells us in his introduction, several of these works pieces a large debt to the wellspring of 20th-century horror, H.P. Lovecraft—no surprise to followers of Lumley’s Titus Crowe series. Outstanding here is the title story, which draws on the old song “The other day upon the stair / I met a man who wasn’t there— / He wasn’t there again today, Oh, how I wish he’d go away.” Benton, the narrator, meets a foul-smelling, black-hatted little hunchback who takes over his train compartment and has Benton ejected. Afterward, Benton asks the conductor why he allowed this, and the conductor denies that any such creature exists. Something similar happens the next day in a pub, and the bartender again denies that the hunchback was ever there. Then the succubus invades Benton’s bed. . . . The novella, “The Return of the Deep Ones,” is set in deepest Lovecraft. A benefactor from Innsmouth, in America, sends British conchologist Vollister a conch with a supremely rare left screw, or anticlockwise spiral to its shape. Then a man with some antique books offers to help explain certain incredible phenomena to Vollister that lead into the history of a prehuman, interstellar race from the ocean depths, including those dreaded slimethings, the shoggoths. Soon enough, Vollister finds himself the center of a resurgence, or rebirth, of these horrors. Is he himself a—oh, no!
Slime far livelier than in the overstuffed Necroscope vampirifics.