Just in case you missed the tag in the title, this is a thread on adult material, and the links lead to other reviews of adult material.
If you've suffered through my impressions of Edward Lee's terrible The Haunter at the Threshold, clever Trolley No. 1852, and The Innswich Horror, then you may be interested in his other two short Lovecraftian novels, Pages Torn From a Travel Journal and The Dunwich Romance. For those unfamiliar, or who haven't read anything like this in a while, a brief recap:
Edward Lee is a horror novelist with some fifty or so published books, a few of which have been made into films and the like. His writing is decidedly on the extreme end of the horror genre, overlapping bizarro fiction and splatterpunk; it is the literary equivalent of exploitation horror films, the kind that have the sensibility of Saw and anatomy on screen than a standard hardcore porno flick, but with particularly fervid imagination, black humor, and no limit on the special effects budget. In turning his sights toward Mythos horror, Lee adds a fair blend of scholarship to the mix. The result are explicit, sometimes gross, full of shout-outs to readers familiar with the Mythos and Lovecraft's biography and letters, at times shameless but never irreverent, at least when the subject is Lovecraft himself.
Pages Torn From a Travel Journal (2010) is a small, thin (147 pages) hardbound volume from Morning Star, my copy is 227/300, signed and numbered, and takes the form of manuscript pages torn from a travel journal, detailing the strange events that occurred to a New England writer during an unplanned stop during a traveling tour in the south in the late 1920s/early 1930s. The narrator-protagonist, the writer of the journal, is intended quite plainly to be H. P. Lovecraft, based mainly on certain names and references placed throughout the book, particularly near the beginning. It is not, I think, intended to be "in continuity" with any of Lee's other Lovecraftian novels, except possibly Trolley No. 1852 - since Lovecraft in Pages shares the same generous dimensions as in that volume.
The basic plot is the writer, on a tour of the South, is forced by an unexpected bus breakdown to stop off for the night in a small village with a visiting carnival. Several of the individual aspects of the journey that the reader takes note of are, of course, elements that appear "later" in stories like "The Shadow over Innsmouth," such as the Gilman House. Interspliced in the narrative are, of course, scenes of the usual hillbilly perversity, degrading and excessive sex, and playing to fetishes-some of which may or may not exist in real life-that are fairly typical of Lee's works. The writer, by luck, gets invited to the carnival and falls in with one of the local "freaks" from the sideshow - a nice young woman with mutilated feet and no teeth who is also forced to work as a prostitute; the writer runs afoul of her husband/father/pimp (believe me, I'm leaving out the worst bits here) and is forcibly ejected from the carnival. Again, by luck (or deus ex machina), the writer manages to subdue a fleeing rapist from a local community of "Creekers" and is enjoined to witness their rustic justice by way of one of Lee's infamous "Headers."
What's a Header? I won't tell you. The Header, and the Creekers, tie Pages loosely into several of Lee's other novels, including the movie Header adapted from one of them. Please don't google it. Even if you do find a description, which you might regret, the Header is possibly Lee's greatest invention in his fiction, and I really enjoy the propagation of the myth.
After a meeting with a Creeker woman who could be the prototype for Lavinia Whateley, the narrative shifts back to the writer, waiting on the bus, musing on the aftermath of other untold events of the night - I won't ruin the ending, but I think it both terrible and terribly perfect. It is the best ending the book could have had, and I like it when a book ends well, even if I do get tired of multiple repeated scenes of men being crude rape-mobiles and women being degraded or sexually assaulted. While much better and coherent than The Haunter on the Threshold, I would rank Pages as worse than Trolley or Innswich, simply because of the multiple and rather unnecessary sex scenes - including one rather bizarre subplot involving a heavily pregnant woman with a British accent. It does, however, have a certain charm that brings to mind the 1932 classic black-and-white film Freaks - you almost wish Lee had spent a little more time on this aspect of things, but then again maybe not - and, of course, Lovecraft's letters. There are a few mistakes in "Lovecraft's" characterization (aside from those necessary for the plot to make any sense at all), but these are rather minor in the grand scheme of things.
The Dunwich Romance (2011) from Bloodletting Press is a handsome, normal sized volume of 198 pages bound in green cloth, with gold lettering on the spine and an impressed image on the cover, also in gold, which combines an image of Wilbur Whateley, tentacles, bat-like wings, and Lovecraft's tree-branch like Elder Sign. My copy is 222/300 signed and numbered. Lee begins with a really great Author's Note, which I'd like to quote a snippet from:
The events basically take place during the period of The Dunwich Horror, and alternate between written pages of Wilbur Whateley's journal that Dr. Armitage did not find, and the impressions of another Sary Sladder, a local and deformed Dunwich prostitute. The plot is pretty straightforward, and most of you can probably guess it - Sary, the lowest of the low on the social ladder in a Depression-era Dunwich, lives a life of sexual assault and abuse punctuated by scenes of extreme and continual degradation, which Lee sees fit to show us in considerable detail. I won't dwell on these particular horrors, but there was one extremely cogent thought that Sary expressed which I shared, and which might give you a taste of what I'm leaving out:Though a portion of H.P. Lovecraft enthusiasts are sure to curse me into the deepest pits of the Shoggoths for daring to 1) append one of the greatest horror stories ever written, and 2) for doing so in such an indelicate, microscopically sexual, and scatological manner, I suspect hat a good many readers may indeed enjoy this bit of work. Moreover, I'm very grateful to those of you who are fans of my material and have continued to support these intermittent excursions into the venue of the Lovecraftian. Thank you!
Anyway, continual sex scenes aside, the romance is obviously doomed, with Wilbur's death at Arkham only a few days later. The charm of the tale, such as there is, lies in the telling - it is basically a slightly bittersweet and familiar romantic comedy, only between a deformed prostitute and a monstrous tentacled half-man. Lee is actually pretty skillful in drawing out the final sexual union between the two, despite interest on both sides. The courtship rituals are actually kind of sweet on consideration - Wilbur Whateley, half-inhuman sorcerer who wishes to open the gate, is undoubtedly the single most decent being Sary had ever met. To say that the rest of the Dunwich residents are the lowest form of scum that sticks to the sides of the cesspit is to insult that scum; there is not a one of them that isn't presented as a sexual deviant, pervert, or rapist of the worst order. Man, you know a town is bad when Wilbur Whateley comes across as the good guy - and hey, he commits murder and shoots a dog in the course of the novel. Sary's relative innocence about Wilbur's nature, her fascination with his anatomy, and her thankfulness at his simple, crude generosity are really what set her character in the novel - she is the only sympathetic character; even Lavinia Whateley - presented briefly in flashbacks - is more of a lust-crazed slut than anything else.Why destiny has seen to insist that Sary be pissed on so many times in her life was a puzzle she suspected had no solution.
As Lee mentions in his author's note, The Dunwich Romance is an ornamentation or appendage to "The Dunwich Horror" as anything else - readers will find references to Derleth's stories set in Dunwich and his post-humus "collaborations" with HPL, references to HPL himself - a sly and passing mention to Home Brew did not escape my notice - and details on several mysteries of "The Dunwich Horror," including the source of Wizard Whateley's gold. There are also several quotations from the Dee Necronomicon and some other volumes - most of which are variations of other quotes, but some of possible interest, including a version of the Voorish Sign.
On the whole, I think this is a very solid effort at an erotic Mythos novel. The sex scenes with Wilbur Whateley have a kind of attention to alien anatomy and possibilities that is a merit to science fiction/fantasy erotica - the ability to literally think of new types of sex, to go beyond the mechanical humping-and-pumping routine. It is certainly better than The Haunter at the Threshold, because it has a very solid (if predictable) plot structure, though like Haunter it suffers somewhat from the elaborate scatological scenes of bestiality, incest, wet sports, etc., some of which display a terrible and twisted imagination, and some of which are just terrible - but all of which are fairly par for this particular kind of course.
These novels or Lee - and here I'm speaking of all five - are interesting to me, not so much because of the sex but in spite of it. Honestly, I could do without women getting peed on and frantic sex every couple pages gets really tiresome, even when Lee does a superior job of it. What attracts me to these novels is, well, the originality of some of the elements - what if Lovecraft did write a spicy story? What if Innsmouth was based on real events and a real place? What if Wilbur Whateley had taken up with some local Dunwich slattern before his fatal assault on the Miskatonic University Library? Fish-fed pork! He really is a good writer. I could stand a little less urine, though.