Review copyright 2012 Freeman Presson, all rights reserved;
Artwork copyright 2012 Bob Freeman, used by permission.
This recent release from Rookhaven Press is a 9″x6″ trade paperback with glossy card covers and good quality paper. It contains, as the title suggests, nine stories of magic and mayhem, generally of the Occult Detective mold. Four are by old masters Lovecraft (with Thomas F. Malone as the Occult Detective figure), Howard (Detective Steve Harrison), Blackwood (Detective John Silence), and Crowley (Detective Simon Iff). The other five are by contemporary writers William Meikle, Joshua M. Reynolds, Christine Morgan, Greg Mitchell, and Steven L. Shrewsbury.
My copy was labeled “uncorrected proof.” Repeat readers know how I am about typos and other errors in published books (hint: fiendish). I didn’t see ONE; I don’t think I’m slipping, either; I think the book was professionally edited (editing credits go to Tracy DeVore and Thaddeus Sexton).
“Ancient Sorceries” by Algernon Blackwood is framed as a detective story, but it is really a long and dream-like paranormal tale being told as a wrap-up through conversations with John Silence. The other stories are full of the more usual fast-paced action and sudden horror one wants from this genre.
I found eight of the stories solid and enjoyable. One of them was more of a vignette that really didn’t take off properly, but since this is very much a matter of taste, and one such out of nine is not likely, taken alone, to make anyone decide against the book, I will refrain from naming it and let the astute reader agree with me, or not.
The book is generously illustrated with line drawings by Bob Freeman, the current contemporary champion of the genre. His Landon “My Creator’s Alter Ego” Connors occult detective character acts as psychopomp, and each story is fronted with an appropriate piece of art. You can amuse yourself picking out sources for symbolism and interesting details in the art (such as recognizing a T-shirt with your home state’s flag partially covered by a jacket, or a familiar occult sigil, or a familiar fake sigil). The cover art by itself makes the book a treasure. Look closely: is the building on the front cover (shown on the right above) “real,” or is it something from the Olam Yetzirah? A Hermetic Memory Palace, perhaps? The Astral Temple of a very learned and visually talented Mage? Dream on …
You can “buy it for one click”1 on Amazon.
1. Poke Runyon said that once when he couldn’t recall the price of a book he recommended on the Hermetic Hour. I didn’t forget (it’s $13.00, and they take Federal Reserve Notes if you don’t want to spend your real money).
[Complimentary review copy from the publisher gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]