R. E. Howard's Cthulhu Mythos-stories

While these stories are marked as based on the Cthulhu mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft, they aren't necessarily Lovecraftian in style and as such, I don't think Howard was even able writing in the archaic hallmark style of his lanky penpal. Or even if he would have been capable of imitating the style, he probably wasn't interested in doing so.

Never the less, the bizarre horrors his contemporary colleague created did interest him enough to write stories that were thematically similar to what Lovecraft did. And so he ended up leaving his own mark to this brand of cosmic horror.

The Thing on the Roof  Tussman, an unlikeable collector if the narrator of the tale is to be trusted, is looking for a rare first edition of a book called Nameless Cults by Von Juntz. He is keen to get his hands on the book, as it supposedly contains hidden knowledge that has been edited out from the later editions and in order to find out the truth, he is willing of paying a handsome sum of money to the humble narrator

Obviously, the book is found and Tussman then uses it to find a secret hidden in a temple long lost. He then invites the narrator of the tale to his mansion to see the fruits of his labour, but as you might guess, Tussman has ruffled some feathers better left unruffled.

The Thing on the Roof is solid enough of a horror story. There isn't anything particularly noteworthy about it, as it is yet another story in the vein of where people get their just or unjust reward from poking things that should be left alone.

The Challenge From Beyond This one isn't a story by Howard, strictly speaking, as he was one of the 10 writers asked to participate in writing a story, where each contributed one part to the greater whole. The end result is interesting, albeit unevenly flowing story, where a camper finds a bizarre rock, that takes him beyond time and space to an alien world. Howard co-wrote his own section for the story with Frank Belknap Long.

The basic gist of the story is, that a malevolent alien race has sent out probes millions of years ago in order to find out if there's any worthwhile life to be conquered in the universe. The stone the camper finds is one of those probes and he has to do something in order to stop the upcoming doom of Earth.

As you might imagine, the story sways a bit all over the place, considering that it was written by several different authors. It does manage to stay together though and I'd say that the final conclusion it has is even kind of cute in its own morbid way.

The Fire of Asshurbanipal two travellers, an Afghan named Yar Am and an American named Steve Clarney,  are in a bit of a pickle: they are in the middle of a desert, with no water, chased by bandits and are almost all out of ammo.

The duo is in the desert looking for a fabled ruby, but from the looks of it, only darkness they'll find is the death granted them by the cruel desert in one way or another. But of course, they manage to find a fabled lost city just in the nick of time and the pearl is there as well, just as the stories promised.

Luckily for the duo, they don't manage to get the pearl, as the Raiders beat them to it. This is lucky because the jewel is guarded by a terrible being from beyond our own reality and it ends up ripping the thieves in pieces

So the moral of the story is: don't try to steal old fabled jewels and whatever you do, if you are in a room where a being from beyond is ripping people apart, don't look at the creature. Just don't. It's nightmare stuff.

Overall, this is yet another decent story. Not overly original, but still playful with the style of Howard's to make it interesting enough to read once or twice.

Dig Me No Grave; AKA John Grimlan's Debt John Conrad, the neighbour of Kirowan's, wakes Kirowan up from his slumber to inform him of the death of old John Grimlan, an eery, not well-liked personality.

The reason why Kirowan is woken up is, that Conrad is in need of his help, as old Grimlan tasked Conrad to take care of his last wishes regarding his body. They are to take his body to his study, where they will place him in a circle of candles. Then a ritual is to take place as it is written.

It doesn't take a big leap of thought to figure out the conclusion of the story and why Grimlan was the kind of a man he was. Dig Me No Grave is well worth a read, especially if you are a fan of supernatural horror.

Usurp the Night; AKA The Hoofed Thing Odd stuff has been going on in the town lately. Or not odd, just a string of deaths and disappearings of neighbourhood pets, including Bozo, the loved dog of Marjorie, the fiancee of Michael Strang.

While Michael was looking for the dog, he happens to a house of Mr. Stark, a bit of a recluse of a man, who's tied down his club foot. The two of them hit it off, as Stark is a smart, well-read man, who keeps entertaining Michael with his stories.

After the sting of oddities turns from dead pets to dead humans, adults and children alike, Strang begins to worry about his new friend's safety, but as these things are, you might already have guessed, the oh so pleasant Mr. Stark is not at all what he seems.

Usurp the Night is somewhat of a peculiar story with a bit of offbeat atmosphere about it. It almost feels like Howard was experimenting with it a bit in order to make it a horror story that really doesn't feel like one despite there is some horrific stuff going on in it. In many ways, as this was counted as Cthulhu mythos story on the collection I have, it is almost a polar opposite on the style Lovecraft created his stories.

It isn't a bad story by all means and the style does make it a worthwhile read. it isn't a classic, but fun enough for what it is.

The house in the Okas; AKA The House this one is one of the many unfinished stories Howard left behind. It is a shame he didn't complete it, as it is an interesting story of an old house and a painting that leads people studying the life of Justin Geoffrey, a mad poet of great prose.

As Geoffrey died young and started to portray his peculiar poetic abilities at a very young age despite his family had no historic connection to any artists, his life has intrigued many people, who want to find out from where his talents truly came from.

Howard sets up an intriguing premise, but as this tale is unfinished, there is no pay off in it as, like I stated, he never finished it. The story ends just about when the investigators locate the mysterious house they believe contains the answer to the question of what happened during Geoffrey's adolescence that turned him into a poet ridden by his own dark visions.

Like I said, it is a shame he never finished the story, as it has the makings of a great horror piece in it.


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