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Review: Carter and Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard October 18, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Lovecraft.
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Carter and Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

Another review written in exchange for a free advance ereading copy through Netgalley and the good people of St Martin’s Press.

This is how it’s done. Many writers have tried to mesh the hardboiled crime story with Lovecraftian horror and failed to pull it off. Jonathan Howard makes it work here, and that’s largely down to minimizing the Lovecraftian elements. The story certainly is Lovecraftian by the end, but it’s not about references to every bit of mythos lore. It starts with the capture of a serial killer that goes strange, and then there are other crimes that seem all but inexplicable, Meanwhile, the title protagonists are given time to become real and interesting characters.

Howard did this book as work for hire; it’s been optioned for TV. I’m hopeful that the TV version is not simply planned as an adaptation of the novel, because I want to see what happens next. The book’s resolution introduces a whole new world of possibilities that I’d like to see explored. I’d also like to see more of the characters Carter and Lovecraft. There’s a lot of character and relationship development waiting to be explored there, too. I hope it’s Howard who gets to do that in another novel, TV series or no, because he did a great job bringing these characters and their world to life. I really want to see more Carter and Lovecraft from him.

Expanding on what I posted at Netgalley…

Howard wrote about the book for Tor.com. He also wrote a previous novel with Lovecraftian elements and wrote about that one at Tor, too. I’m going to have to check it out.

There’s a novel that gets a lot of praise from Lovecraftians across the Internet: Nightmare’s Disciple by Joseph Pulver. It’s about a serial killer driven by his belief in Lovecraft’s mythos and the detective trying to track him down. I was surprised by the praise, because that book does everything wrong that Howard’s gets right: an unbelievable villain, hopelessly clunky dialogue, and way, way, way too many references to every bit of Lovecraftian lore Pulver could squeeze in, along with other references and in-jokes. Howard has a character named Lovecraft, yes, and she’s a descendant of HP (it’s a work of fiction, so why not), and Carter turns out to be related to Randolph Carter, a fictional creation of HPL in our reality; there are references to the Dreamlands and the films Re-Animator and From Beyond, but there’s not a single “Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!” to be found here. The chapter titles will draw the eye of the knowledgeable reader, though.

And then there’s C.J. Henderson’s pulpy mythos/hardboiled detective stories, which are, well, pulpy mythos tales of interest to the hardcore. Howard’s book has the potential to appeal to people who don’t know names like Chaosium, Robert Price, or S.T. Joshi. It’s accessible while still telling a story that will appeal to longtime Lovecraft/mythos readers like me. That’s no small accomplishment.

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