Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

Black Wings of Cthulhu


Editor: S.T. Joshi
Titan Books
RRP: £8.99, US $14.95, Cdn $16.95
ISBN: 978 0 85768 782 1
Available 23 March 2012

Although H.P Lovecraft died in 1937, his legacy as a writer of speculative fiction, horror especially, remains strong today. He influenced Stephen King and references to his Cthulhu Mythos have woven themselves into popular culture.

Black Wings of Cthulhu is an anthology devoted to Lovecraft and the universe he created. The twenty-one tales are by some of the best contemporary horror writers, who are able to tell Lovecraftian tales without the limitations of a hundred year old prose style.

Having read the whole anthology, the thing which strikes you most is the structural similarity between most of the stories. As a celebration of Lovecraft most of the writers have chosen to write stories which deal with the growing horror of discovery. The discoveries are taken from Lovecraft’s own mythos which held that the universe was a cold, dark place, which cared little or nothing for humans or their desires. The creatures and gods which walked the celestial paths no longer rule humans directly, but slumber beneath the earth, visiting people in their dreams with visions of horror.

It is an interesting premise, which could be seen as a metaphor for mental illness. Each of the characters slowly become aware of a growing horror in their midst, the final revelation is usually met with madness or transformation. Both of these aspects are abhorrent to humans. To lose a limb is tragic, but in some way this is an external loss, the personality remains, to lose your mind is the final universal betrayal.

The book has an introduction by writer and Lovecraft authority S. T. Joshi, which should be required reading if you are unaware of Lovecraft’s work.

The writers, who have gone down a slightly different route, include Rotterdam by Nicholas Royle, where only the location appears to join the story to Lovecraft. The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash by Ramsey Campbell, which presents a tale as a set of letters received by Lovecraft from an increasingly unhinged fan.

Of the rest, I did have a few personal favourites, usually picked because of the technical skill the writer utilised to cause a sense of apprehension in the reader, or because the central idea was compelling.

Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge tells the tale of a small town sheriff beset with a plague of zombies. It’s a fast paced piece, which hits the page running and never lets up on the pressure.

Inhabitants of Wraithwood by W. H. Pugmire is a true love poem to Lovecraft’s world, wherein a small time crook is taken in and sheltered by a decidedly odd set of people. As the story progresses, Pugmire expertly piles layer upon layer of creeping horror to the point where even an odd but innocuous picture hanging over the bed comes to have significance.

In truth, there isn’t a badly written story in the whole book and often the most successful of the pieces leave much to the readers own imagination. References abound to places and characters created by Lovecraft. Even if you know little about Lovecraft, but are still a fan of horror fiction, this is still a worthy anthology.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£5.29 (
£5.29 (
£7.19 (
$10.17 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.