Shadows Bend: A Novel of the Fantastic and Unspeakable
by David Barbour & Richard Raleigh
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
310 pages; ISBN: 0-441-00765-1
Rating: 8/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Paul Lappen
Set in 1935, this novel is the story of a meeting between H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, two of the most famous pulp writers ever, and mainstays of the magazine Weird Tales.
Lovecraft travels to the Howard residence in Grants Pass, Texas, with a tale that sounds like one of his horror stories come to life. It involves a Hopi kachina doll sent to him from someone who received it in error. Inside the head of the doll is a living thing, about the size of a shirt button, that can change color and gives off its own light, something obviously not of this earth. Lovecraft also relates the near certainty that because of what he calls The Artifact, he is being followed by minions of the evil god Cthulhu, the sort of being that makes Satan look like an amateur.
Howard is no stranger to weird things himself; they agree that the only person to consult is Clark Ashton Smith, the third member of the Weird Tales "Three Musketeers", living in California. At first, Howard refuses to go, not wanting to leave his bedridden mother, but is convinced by his father that if there is even a slight chance that The Artifact will help his mother, he should go.
In a nearby town, they rescue a young woman named Glory, who is being harassed by a group of ruffians. She was a college student before becoming pregnant out of wedlock. In a time when such a thing was a major scandal, she was sent away to have the baby and ended up becoming an oil-town prostitute. She is dropped off in the next town to catch a bus to visit her sister in Las Vegas, and is nearly taken captive by beings who could only be minions of Cthulhu, before being rescued by Howard and Lovecraft.
On their journey west, all three are tormented by dreams worse than nightmares. At one point, a flat tire off of Howard's car explodes, and hundreds of scorpions emerge. Later, the car is engulfed by hundreds of possessed animals, ranging in size from mice to cougars. A couple of times, Glory is possessed by Cthulhu and nearly gets them all killed. The final "battle" takes place in a series of chambers under a Hopi pueblo in New Mexico, chambers that were ancient before man ever walked the Earth.
Others are more qualified than I to judge the accuracy of the portrayals of Messrs. Howard, Lovecraft and Smith, but I enjoyed this book. It's sufficiently weird and creepy, and is very well done.
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