A deep plunge into the Lovecraft-ian dark side.
Poole (History/Coll. of Charleston; Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, 2014, etc.) enthusiastically explores how H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) influenced modern pop culture. The author’s ardent fandom occasionally gets in the way, but he doesn’t shy away from being critical when it matters, as when he discusses the “raw sewage of the author’s racial theories.” Poole reveals how a “strange, sickly, geeky, gawky, weird, impossible Howard” became H.P. Lovecraft, creating “horror tales without precedent and monsters without antecedent.” The reclusive writer was lucky to be around when scary ghost stories were the thing; even “high-falutin figures” like Henry James were writing them. Lovecraft’s moody “fictional grimoire” found favor with the editors of Weird Tales beginning in 1926 with “The Tomb” (they originally rejected his most famous work, “The Call of Cthulhu”). It gained him an audience but little income. Downplaying the role Poe had on his work and paying particular attention to the role women played in Lovecraft’s life, Poole seamlessly weaves biography and criticism as he shows how the fodder of Lovecraft’s mental state was transformed into the eerie, occult-infused stories Nail Gaiman calls “where the darkness begins.” The rise of interest in Lovecraft after his death at 46 to the “apex of American popular culture’s current fascinations form[s] a story as peculiar as his own life.” Poole chronicles how writers like Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, and Robert Bloch championed him while Arkham House tirelessly kept his books in print. The “contemporary geek culture” created a “multibillion dollar entertainment juggernaut” consisting of video and board games, films, TV shows, comics, and steampunk that bear the Lovecraft-ian stamp. Poole even chronicles his visits to fantasy conferences interviewing fans who want to talk about the author who “wrote a new American history and a new geography to match it.”
Poole calls his occasionally flaky biography “unorthodox,” but it’s also thoroughly enjoyable and highly readable.