By Brian Lumley (Tor; 2009)
Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series is officially finished, but here Lumley offers three short pieces centered on Harry Keogh, the Necroscope (i.e. a guy who can talk to the dead). The series, started in the late eighties, numbers over a dozen volumes (of which I’ve only read the first two aside from this one). As Lumley makes clear in his introduction to the present book, Harry Keogh was the headliner of quite a few of those volumes, while in others Harry was a supporting character, with subsequent Necroscopes assuming his mantle.
In HARRY AND THE PIRATES Harry is back in the driver’s seat. The book overall is far from the best of Lumley’s fiction, Necroscope related or otherwise, but is an enjoyable enough bit of old-fashioned cosmic horror.
For the record, Brian Lumley is an extremely prolific English writer who got his start publishing H.P. Lovecraft-inspired pastiches back in the 1970s. Lumley favors overripe adjective-ridden prose, more often than not topped off with exclamation points: “The thing was as weird as can be”…“Oh, Harry wanted desperately to shout but couldn’t because he was paralyzed!” While onetime Lovecraft imitators like Robert Bloch and Ramsey Campbell have moved on, Brian Lumley doesn’t ever seem to have entirely outgrown the pulpy Lovecraft aesthetic.
Lumley does, however, have a distinct voice, and introduces quite a few fun concepts, many of which feature in this book. For starters, there’s the Mobius Continuum, defined in another Necroscope volume as nothing less than the “Eye of God,” which allows Harry to travel to any place or time he wants. You can rest assured that in HARRY AND THE PIRATES Lumley takes the time to briefly explain this and other arcane concepts for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the rest of the series.
HARRY AND THE PIRATES is set during the “Lost Years” of Harry Keogh’s existence. In “For the Dead Travel Slowly,” the first and longest piece, Harry investigates a series of murders, not realizing they’ve been committed by an ancient Cthuloid monstrosity. The tale is a little overlong and dragged out; we’re informed on the first page who the culprit is, which makes the remainder of the piece something of a waiting game for Harry to figure out what we already know.
“Harry and The Pirates” follows, being a witty tribute to the seafaring horror of William Hope Hodgson. In this tale Harry is hoodwinked by a long-dead pirate who insists upon telling his tale of terror, involving a witchy woman who laid him and his fellow swashbucklers low…but the corpse-pirate has much he’s keeping to himself!
Finally there’s a 4-page piece called “Old Man with A Blade,” about a certain indistinct man with a long curved blade who views all humanity as potential victims–and is an “old friend” of Harry Keogh…