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New Mythos Legends by C. J. Henderson
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New Mythos Legends

by C. J. Henderson

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New Mythos Legends recently came up in a discussion online. I vaguely recollected that I was underwhelmed but could not recall any specifics. Not having much else to do this weekend, I reread it. Now I can state with some confidence that this book does not make my top ten list. Marietta Publishing has put out a few titles of interest to mythos fiction fans, including Lin Carter's Anton Zarnak, and some books by CJ Henderson: The Occult Detectives of CJ Henderson, The Stench of Fresh Air and The Things That Are Not There in the Teddy London series. New Mythos Legends was compiled in the late 90s (all the stories are copyright 1999), but not released until 2002 in trade paperback. I never saw the illustrated hardcover edition. It is a decent quality trade paperback, with 271 pages, text starting on page 7. List is $15.99, discounted to $12.47 on Amazon, reasonably generous for the page count. The at best OK cover art was by Allen Koszowski; it showed a sort of shoggothy critter. His other Cthulhu artwork is better (http://www.allenk.com/artwork/gallery1.html). I saw a few scattered word substitutions in the CJ Henderson stories, notably poured for pored. Editing was by Bruce Gehweiler, OK enough. The book fell down in the content, not the production qualities. I will make some brief comments on the individual stories but can't really bring myself to go into too much detail.

The Calm - James Dorr - This is unusual for a mythos story in that it is set in colonial America. I think there are a few such stories in Frontier Cthulhu but otherwise is an unexplored era. Some British soldiers and colonial militiamen have an unpleasant encounter at the time of the French and Indian War (elsewhere known as the Seven Years War). I think this may actually have been my favorite story in the whole book. Mr. Dorr wrote The Candle Room in Horrors Beyond.

Return of the Shroud - Norman Partridge - This may be Mr. Partridge's only publication in a Cthulhu mythos book. And here we begin to see why this book is so exasperating. This is not really a Lovecraftian or a Cthulhu mythos story. It instead is about a very evil man who is haunted by a demon that punishes evil people and makes them suffer, and how this man tries to get the best of his fate. I pretty much liked it but it was not exactly on topic. Just wait, it gets better from here...

Psychopomp of Irem - W. H. Pugmire - (psychopomp: a person who conducts spirits or souls to the other world, as Hermes or Charon) Mr. Pugmire is a wonderful prose stylist, maybe the most unique and gifted Lovecraftian author today. The definition tells you all you need to know. OK, this was definitely my favorite story in the book.

Revelation at Xochizlan - Richard Flanagan - I don't think Mr. Flanagan has any other mythos stories except in this anthology. In this rather conventional story, some Miskatonic University archeologists unearth a newly discovered Mayan tomb. One of them begins to translate the pictographs and the rest start to go off the deep end. A ceremony is taking place to allow an ancient malevolent entity to cross into our world. Nyarlathotep has many names. While certainly at home here, the prose was uninspired and there were no surprises.

The Fire Dogs of Balustrade - Stephen Mark Rainey - I am a fan of Rainey's fiction; I like his prose and mythos sensibilities. This is a good story involving our favorite hounds and some thugs who have an encounter with an artist whose works either shape or reveal the real reality. For the collector there is duplication, as this appears in both The Last Trumpet and Other Gods, although I believe this was its first appearance.

Dominion - Don D'Ammassa - I have read The Dunwich Gate (pretty good, from Tales Out of Dunwich) and the novel Servants of Chaos (a Leisure book...) by Mr. D'Ammassa. I also liked Military Deferment from Warfear. Dominion is his best work, I think, with good Lovecraftian sensibilities. A chance encounter in a bar leads a couple to follow a stranger to a field where they see the true masters of the world. The trick is, you don't want them to notice you...

Admission of Weakness - C. J. Henderson - This is an Anton Zarnak story by the redoubtable CJ Henderson. It gives us his first adventure in NYC. OK for the subgenre, I suppose, but it's not my favorite subgenre.

To Cast Out Fear - C. J. Henderson - Here Anton Zarnak meets Inspector Legrasse. The title also appears in The Tales of Inspector Legrasse and in Lin Caters's Anton Zarnak. Pretty good read, again not in my very favorite subgenre.

Cellar Gods - Jeffrey Thomas - This excellent story by Mr. Thomas also appears in his collection from Mythos Books, Unholy Dimensions. In a very good Lovecraftian story a small town doctor falls hard for a woman who may be of the Tcho Tcho, who cannot escape her heritage.

Feeders - Del Stone, Jr. - Here is another pretty good story which only belongs here if you stretch mythos connotations past the breaking point. A man tortured by bad decisions in his past can see these absolutely loathsome things attached to people, creating and siphoning off their misery. He is trying hopelessly for a last shot at redemption. Beyond the imagery of these creatures (which may be no more than hallucinations) it has nothing to do with Lovecraft. Mr. Stone has no other `mythos' stories that I know of (and I guess he doesn't even have this one...)

Of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine - Tom Piccirilli - Another story not at all Cthulhu mythos, or even very Lovecraftian. All the warlock and witches of the word are gathered in one city where they can choose some demon or angel as their familiar. Just as the one warlock (or whatever) who could not bond a familiar returns, some catastrophe is killing most of the inhabitants and familiars, and it is up to him to solve the mystery. OK, but why was it here?

The Govi - Hugh B. Cave - Well, I'm not the biggest Hugh Cave fan; mostly his prose is uninspired. And here, we have that same prose in the service of a voodoo story. Where is the mythos connection?

On The Case of Denis McLachlan - Richard Flanagan - I don't know of any other mythos stories by Mr. Flanagan except the ones here. This one was not a world beater. A modern derelict vessel is found to have a diary from hundreds of years earlier on board. It tells of a man's encounter with the world beyond what we know, as he desperately tries to reestablish contact with his recently deceased wife. OK, I suppose, but nothing to write home about.

Noonday Devil - James Shimkus - Pretty good, this story would have been at home in Ron Shiflet's western horror book, Hell's Hangmen. In fact it would have been more at home there than in this mythos collection. We meet the quickest draw of all of them, and find out a little about him. Nothing Lovecraftian about it, but it is a fun read. I know of no Cthulhu stories by Mr. Shimkus.

Worm in a Bottle - Stephen Antczak - This was my first and only encounter with the fiction of Mr. Antczak. A city drug using tough crosses the wrong gang. Another OK read with no particular compelling connection to Lovecraft.

Baptism of Fire - Bruce Gehweiler & C. J. Henderson - For the life of me I have no idea why this story is in this anthology. A man tortured by bad decisions in his past is chosen as an avatar for an angel to fight against Satan's minions on earth. OK read but where is the mythos association?

In the end I just can't recommend New Mythos Legends to anyone but the most fanatical collector (and then only because I don't think the Pugmire and D'Ammassa stories are published elsewhere). The other stories most worth reading are likely in your library in other collections. The more mythosish stories weren't that great, and if the other stories ranged from at least readable to pretty good, they weren't either Cthulhu mythos or Lovecraftian. For this I blame the editor. Maybe Mr. Gehweiler intended a Lovecraftian anthology and was stuck with what he got back in solicited contributions or maybe he had a bunch of stories and titled the book to capitalize on the market of suckers like me who buy all the mythos books, I dunno. Normally I would give this book 3 stars for the inclusion of some pretty good mythos stories, even with the duplication, but I was pretty annoyed at the large number of stories that were off topic. Having reread this one, I now return it to the shelf for, oh, forever. ( )
  carpentermt | Sep 23, 2010 |
hmmm...it's not often I give what I consider to be an average rating to a book of mythos-type stories, but I have to in this case. Some of the stories were just that -- average. Some of these stories just flat out disappointed me; not because they weren't along the Mythos lines, but that the writing just didn't do it for me. But once again, when you're dealing with anthologies, that's what happens.
If I had to pick my favorites I'd vote for "Revelation at Xochizlan," "The Fire Dogs of Balustrade" (a very creepy story), "Admission of Weakness," (I'm a sucker for Dr. Anton Zarnak), "Cellar Gods" and "On the Case of Denis McLachlan: An Update."

Overall, a decent book with some great stories that will give you a nice case of the heebie-jeebies if you read them in the quiet of night. Not the best anthology of Lovecraft-influenced writings, but still, not to be missed. ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Aug 10, 2006 |
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