Archive for book review

My Lost Book Review: The Dark Eidolon

Posted in Clark Ashton Smith, S.T. Joshi, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 5, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas
A while back, the bookstore I work for asked the staff to write book reviews for the new website they were creating. They had to be brief, and on titles which were likely to be carried at one of our numerous locations. I chose “The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies” by Clark Ashton Smith. Unfortunately, the way the log in is set up on the computers at work, the credit for the review went to the last person to submit one, so my piece is attributed to another employee. To rectify this, I am reposting it here for you all to peruse.
Tagline: Excellent introduction to this macabre bard of the weird

“Clark Ashton Smith was an artist, sculptor, author and poet, known mostly today through his association with Horror icon H.P. Lovecraft. Although Smith did dabble in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos during his tenure with Weird Tales magazine, he was a master storyteller and wordsmith in his own right, specializing in exquisitely written fantasy tales and poems which smack of 19th century Orientalism and Gothic Horror. Featuring a generous selection of his sublime short stories, prose poems and metered verse, this collection by Penguin Classics, replete with an enlightening introduction and copious explanatory notes by Weird Tales scholar S.T. Joshi, is a great introduction to this macabre bard from the Golden Age of Pulp.”


Tabula Cūlus

Posted in Alchemy, black humor, De Vermis Mysteriis, Hermes Trimegistus, Lovecraftian Horror, Lucifer, Ludwig Prinn, Tabula Cūlus, Tabula Smaragdina, The Cult of the Yellow Sign with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas

A couple of years ago the Cult of the Yellow Sign approached me to write an article for inclusion in  one of their celebrated pamphlets. Wanting to take full advantage of this great opportunity, I gave much thought as to what I might write which would capture the essence of the C.Y.S. mixing surrealist humor and Lovecraftian Horror. At the time, I had just read about the Tabula Smaragdina of Hermes Trimegistus, a legendary emerald tablet upon which is inscribed an apocryphal alchemical treatise, and thought it might be fun to play on that. The Cult was enthusiastic upon receiving it, but they never used it, so it has been languishing in my archives since then. Written in the form of a mock book review from an unnamed (unnamable?) Cult member, here it is, in all of its dark droll glory, The Tabula Cūlus

“In his celebrated grimoire, De Vermis Mysteriis (a Cult bestseller second only to Abdul Alhazred’s Al Azif the most recent translation of the Necronomicon from the original Arabic by Egyptian scholar and all around madman, Ini-herit Apep, whose knowledge of ancient and forbidden tomes is exceptional but his man-crush on the Black Pharoah Nephren-ka is a bit cloying), author Ludwig Prinn said of his studies during his tenure with the mystics of Damscus that when it came to alchemy the Syrian sages continually emphasized their mission to find and reproduce the essence of life and creation. Their continual reference to the Tabula Smaragdina of Hermes Trismegistus, an over-hyped and frankly confusing fragment supposedly written on an emerald which fell from the forehead of Lucifer during his initial fall from Grace which claims to contain the whole truth and nothing but as it circumvents any revelation thereof pissed him off no end, so he performed a ritual of his own devising wherein he obtained an ebon gem from the Light-bearer’s arse upon which he forced 666 angels (culled from Thomas Aquinus’ pin-head angels to be precise) to transcribe his own alchemical treatise entitled the Tabula Cūlus which has recently been discovered, translated and published in our Cult Club Derma-Bound editions and will be made available to Cultists of discerning tastes at the next Void-of-Course Moon phase. The aforementioned gem has been retained by Cultist #138 and is currently being stored for safekeeping in his corresponding orifice.”

Cult Member #138

Cult Member #138

Ramsey Campbell’s “Ancient Images”

Posted in Ancient Images, Bela Lugosi, book review, Boris Karloff, Ramsey Campbell with tags , , , , on October 5, 2013 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Just finished reading “Ancient Images” by Ramsey Campbell. It’s a slow burner which is heavy on the atmosphere but light on the action; a well told fright tale, with shades of “The Wicker Man”, but the ending is a little anti-climactic. A young film editor, Sandy Allan, goes to a friend’s house to see the film he unearthed which is reputed to be a lost film by Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Upon her arrival she finds her friend’s residence in a mess, the film gone, then looks out the window just in time to see her friend leap off of the rooftop across the way. Offered time off from work to mourn, she decides to look for the film to vindicate her dead friend who is being lambasted by a bitter film critic for trying to dig up such a nasty old film, which the critic claims doesn’t really exist anymore anyway.  On her hunt to find the film, Sandy finds that many of the people associated with the film either died under questionable circumstances or totally disassociated themselves from it after the fact. Her  journey eventually leads to Redfield, a country town not unlike Summerisle from “The Wicker Man”: a seemingly quiet community with dark pagan secrets and killer scarecrows.

Promotional still from the Universal film

Promotional still from the Universal film “The Black Cat” (1934), featuring Boris Karloff (left) and Bela Lugosi (right).

Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi made many classic Horror films together for Universal Studios in Hollywood, during the 1930’s, when this missing film is supposed to have been made; why they would have gone to the English countryside to make what was basically an independent film with a no-name director is beyond my comprehension, and when would they have found the time? This premise doesn’t sit well with me and the execution of the book is lackluster for this grandmaster of the Horror genre; worth a read if you’re already a fan, but if you haven’t read Campbell already, I wouldn’t start here.

“Ancient Images” 1990 Charles Scribner’s Sons / SFBC