The Lovecraft Papers by P. H. Cannon, © 1996 hardback, Science Fiction Bookclub
This is the 6th in my series of Forgotten Books
PH Cannon has played fast and furious with literary characters and real writers in this collection of one novella, three short stories, and an essay. Initially the stories were published in two volumes – Pulptime (1984, Weirdbook) and Scream For Jeeves (1994, Wodecraft Press). As you would gather from this volumes title, they are Lovecraftian to the core.
The initial novella, Pulptime, was a small press publication and involves the story of H. P. Lovecraft and his good friend Frank Belknap Long Jr. and their adventures with a loose-knit club of other writers and friends known as the Kalem Klub (Kalem because the initial founders of the club all had last names beginning with K, L, and M, therefore the KLM Klub). This was in the period of Lovecraft’s residence in New York City, following his brief marriage to Sonia Green. Sonia does not appear in this story, being in the Midwest looking for work.
Lovecraft and Long are befriended by a Mr. John Altamont, an elderly man who is residing in the neighborhood of Lovecraft’s residence. They rescue him from being mugged one evening and become fast friends. They are surprised to discover that Mr. Altamont knows who they are and has read their writings in Weird Tales. It comes as a small shock to them to discover that Mr. Altamont is, in fact, Mr. Sherlock Holmes engaged on a mission to recover some papers for a mysterious client. The papers are in the hand of an underworld figure engaged in smuggling, importation of illegal aliens, bootlegging and gambling. Holmes requires the help of his new friends and of their Kalem Klub friends to secure the area for the big confrontation. In between they attend a séance, meet Harry Houdini, and encounter thugs and ruffians of every ilk. Cannon reproduces Lovecraft’s voice evocatively, using terms and descriptions straight from his letters. Pulptime is quite a bit of fun.
Scream For Jeeves is totally different. Here Cannon improbably combines the work of Lovecraft and P. G, Wodehouse. The stories are retellings of “Rats in the Walls”, “Cool Air”, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” and” The Music of Erik Zann” done as Jazz Age of Bertie Wooster and his gentlemen’s gentlemen, Jeeves. The first story “Cats, Rats and Other things” has Bertie going to help his school chum Tubby who has a sight problem with rats. Bertie cannot refuse because they are school chums even though Jeeves urges him strongly to pass the trip up. The terms that came to mind as I re-read these stories were “Surreal”, “hilarious” and “wacked out”. They are impossible to describe, though if you are a fan of Wodehouse, it does help as the stories are fundamentally Wodehouseian, filled with Bertie’s odd quips and expressions. There are wonderful illustrations by J. C, Eckhardt, showing the fabulously rich in terrifying situations. The closing essay compares the lives and stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, P. G. Wodehouse, and H. P. Lovecraft.
The individual volumes are now rather pricy, especially Scream For Jeeves. Amazon has some starting at $45 or so. Pulptime can be found for about $15. Over on Abe.com The Lovecraft Papers can be found for as little as $3 and shipping.
Cannon later produced another volume called An Episode of Pulptime and One Other (2003, Mythos Press) where Lovecraft, Long and Holmes reunite against Dracula. I have not seen this or read it so I cannot comment on it.
This volume was fun, though the joke it does wear a little thin if you try to consume it all in one sitting. These are stories best dipped into individually and with a passage of time. Still I can recommend it if the ideas strike your fancy. It is not really recommended for those without a background in the works of Lovecraft, Long, Wodehouse, or Doyle.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.