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‘In Spite of Hell’
"The Thing on the Roof" by Robert E. Howard
This horror short seems to be set in H.P. Lovecraft’s collective universe, shared with various pulp writers of the time. There has been speculation that this could be a Lovecraft ghost write. But Howard’s interest in pre-Columbian civilizations of the Southwest has been obvious to this reader since reading his Cibola story, and he had a much wider range than most casual readers realize. [It is my opinion that the suggestion by a YouTube audio book listener, in the form of a question, that this story was a Lovecraft ghostwrite, falls short of serious speculation, but does provide a point of departure for discussing Howard's literary range.]
The reader of this audiobook has a wonderful voice for such a story.
For a writer, that remembers what it was like to try and get published before the online webzine and e-book transformation, the first segment of the first person narrative, which discusses the bibliographical history of the strange tome that is the subject of this story, rings rusty and true.
The Temple of the Toad represents a common mania of Howard’s era, in which white men yet dreamed that a place that had hitherto been undiscovered and un-plundered by others of their kind remained in the darker places of the world to speak across the ages the truths of some elder race. The tittering toad horror is very similar to the deity that lurked in the ancient city in the Conan story Xuthal of the Dusk.
“The smoldering backwater anger” of Tussman, and the introduction of such a hardened and imposing figure in a work of bibliographic horror in the Lovecraftian tradition is as out of place as Charles Bronson would have been in a Friday the 13th Movie and marks it as a Howard work.
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