Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Shadow over Providence

So, someone did his research, and decided to have a stab at Lovecraft's mythos. Jonathan L. Howard's Carter & Lovecraft is what happens when you combine things that shouldn't exist with hard-boiled fiction, then modernize the entire affair and add in quite a few literary allusions.

We start with Dan Carter, working for the NYPD, and the suicide by cop of a serial killer that in turn leads to the actual suicide of his partner during the confrontation with the Child-catcher. Seems said serial killer (who's been kidnapping young boys and performing vivisections on their brains), had a wall o' madness that wound up with everyone but  the latest victim and Carter dead.

This causes Carter to leave the force, understandably. He gets a Private Investigator license and begins a long career of investigating cheating spouses. Well, until the day that Henry Weston walks in the door to inform Carter that he's inherited a bookshop in Providence, Rhode Island. Which leaves Carter to drive 4 hours away to check out his new inheritance, a used bookstore run by one Emily Lovecraft, a young African-American girl who's great-a few times uncle was one HP. (Her race leads into a discussion on H. P.'s rather well documented racism, which is a discussion really not fit for this blog. However, given how much his fiction has influenced modern horror, one feels we could probably adapt the Looney Tunes warning label on their more racist offerings as a warning on some of the more overt stories of the mulattos from hell.)

Like this
Anyway, the inheritance leads to texts from a guy who drowns in a dry car, which in turn leads to a mathematician with an attitude and the ability to run the roulette table as well as make 4 one armed bandits jackpot out all at once. (That he gives a wafer thin mint to the pit boss is of no consequence.) 
We hear about the odd family out on Waite's Bill, who've been on the land since well before the area was settled by Europeans. With all the women looking like teenage jailbait, unless you look in their eyes, or the men who only seem to want to swim...
All right. There's a lot going on in here, most of which revolves around the idea of Carter being much like his evidently non-fictional ancestor, Randolph. In other words, he can deal with the complete and total insanity around him without going there himself. 
It's a fun read, with echoes to the stories it's drawn from. It also has a few gaping plot holes, and another round of revisions may have prevented a few places where things get mentioned after not being there before. (One particular example is a figure on a bookshelf that gets mention late in the game that wasn't  ever mentioned previously.) There's also a a foreshadowed deus ex machina (or in this case deus ex libro) in the climax that's kind of annoying. But honestly, it's one of the better mythos based books I've found in recent memory.