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seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 30 August, 2017 09:33AM
Thusfar I've read very little of Derleth; I've never been able to connect with it, and the same amount of time I've spent in brief consideration of style, it seems forced, at best. In particular, those few stories that he completed from notes left by Lovecraft seem markedly less effective and skilled.

In truth, it appears that his greatest claim is to the energy it took to organize and publish, and this appears to me to be his m├ętier. That he was a dedicated, intelligent, and energetic man seems beyond question.

I would welcome all comments and opinions. It could be that I'm missing out on a talented author.

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 30 August, 2017 10:34AM
I've read little by Derleth other than the Mythos and macabre stories, none of which present themselves in memory as very interesting, but my understanding is that he can be good as a novelist. I have been thinking of getting hold of his novel Shield of the Valiant and starting it. Many years ago, when I browsed the shelves of my public library, it seems, I'd see two books under his name in the fiction collection -- this novel, and an Arkham House anthology (Dark Mind, Dark Heart). And so Shield of the Valiant has stuck in my memory a little, as a title. Recently I looked up a little information about it, and it sounded like it might be worth reading -- but certainly not as a contribution to the horror genre.

DN

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 August, 2017 04:28AM
I have The Watchers Out of Time (Arkham House), and may have read two or three stories in it, but none of them stuck in my mind. I keep the book for the fantastic Herb Arnold cover art.

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 31 August, 2017 05:29AM
Derleth's Mythos stories are, for the most part, potboilers - workmanlike, very pulpish, most of the characteristics of "bad Lovecraft pastiche," but the action flows pretty well. A few of his "posthumous collaborations" are much better - I would hold "The Lamp of Alhazred" up as one of the best homages to Lovecraft ever written. Derleth's own weird pulp fiction tends to be competent, workmanlike, shows an obvious influence from M. R. James-style ghost stories, but also telegraphs a good deal of the plot. They can have interesting images and ideas, though he rarely develops them beyond what is necessary for the needs of the story. I wouldn't say they were minimalistic, but they tend to be to the point and not meander about. His mystery fiction is better, focuses on the plot, setting, and characterization. Regional writing is where Derleth shone; he had a real love of history and nature, and could indulge himself more in how the characters are influenced by and interact with both.

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 2 November, 2017 11:27AM
I've read WATCHER OUT OF TIME (which is late in his career, and therefore probably not him at his best), and few random short stories. I saw nothing I would recommend to others or would want to read again.

Derleth, by all accounts, was a great guy, and a mediocre writer. His enthusiasm outstripped his ability. Try his stuff if you must, but there is particular reason you should.

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: jimrockhill2001 (IP Logged)
Date: 2 November, 2017 05:21PM
Derleth experimented with different narrative voices, producing pastiches of many different authors he admired; thus you are going to find pastiches not just of Lovecraft, but also M.R. James, L.P. Hartley, Le Fanu, Blackwood, and Marjorie Bowen, among others. The regional supernatural stories, beginning as pastiches of the sort of thing written by Mary Wilkins Freeman and Sarah Orne Jewett are actually quite good, with strong characterization and settings that don't seem to have been stamped into place (as they do in most of his Lovecraft pastiches. The stories he wrote under the pseudonym Stephen Grendon (one of the characters in his Sac Prairie saga) are probably the best place to start, but these are fine stories sprinkled throughout his collections. I recommend reading the following before dismissing him: "Th Panelled Room" and "The Shuttered House" (note: not "the Shuttered ROOM") in SOMEONE IN THE DARK: "The Satin Mask" and "Motive" in SOMETHING NEAR; "The Drifting Snow" and "Mrs. Lannisfree" in NOT LONG FOR THIS WORLD; "The Lonesome Place" and "The Dark Boy" in LONESOME PLACES; and nearly anything in MR. GEORGE AND OTHER ODD PERSON. Some of his worst stories are those he and Mark Schorer churned out together on alternate nights, collected in COLONEL MARKESAN AND LESS PLEASANT PERSONS.

When Derleth was willing to deviate from pastiche, and think on his own, even his Lovecraftian stories could be interesting, if not anywhere near the level of Lovecraft, cf. the two Lovecraft/Blackwood Wendigo pastiches "The Thing that Walked on the Wind" and Ithaqua", the very un-Lovecraftian "Witches' Hollow", the touching Lovecraft tribute "The Lamp of Alhazred" and the rather bizarre melange of elements from Lovecraft and M.R. James, "The Horror from the Middle Span".

THE LURKER AT THE THRESHOLD is one of the most frustrating things Derleth wrote. It starts out strongly, then changes direction sharply (and drops several interesting threads) with the appearance of Derleth's dull supernatural sleuth Laban Shrewsbury. The Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price recognized this and wrote a different version of the novel's second half ("The Round Tower [Being the Narrative of Armitage Harper] reprinted in THE DUNWICH CYCLE), which is a great improvement on Derleth's.

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 November, 2017 06:40PM
I must've read "The Horror from the Middle Span" many years ago, but I may give it another look. HPL-MRJ? Hmm!

Any other Derleth stories anyone regards as definitely Jamesian?

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 3 November, 2017 11:28AM
Of the stories listed by Mr. Rockhill, the few I have read, I must disagree. At best, these are stories that rise to the level of mediocrity rather than being simply poor. "The Lamp of Alhazred" is a second-rate version of "The Silver Key"; in moments, it soars by borrowing passages from HPL's letters. "Witches' Hollow" stood out as being less derivative than the other stories in WATCHER OUT OF TIME, but it still failed to impress. "The Horror from the Middle Span" was simply forgettable ... at least, I have forgotten it.

I recently read one of Derleth's old anthologies THE SLEEPING AND THE DEAD (1947). It's a pretty good anthology -- Derleth has decent taste when it comes to other people's stuff. He threw in one of his own stories, "Glory Hand". It was far from being the worst thing he's written, but if I were to rank the stories in the anthology, it would be close to the bottom of the list.

Another old anthology I recently read was TALES OF THE UNDEAD (1947) edited by Elinore Blaisdell (who selected and illustrated the stories the assistance of some people at WEIRD TALES). It included an August Derleth story called "The Metronome". I guess in this case, Derleth not being the editor, someone other than Derleth must have thought it was good. (And they are not alone either -- it's been anthologized since). But again (though not terrible) it was one of the weaker stories in the collection.

I've never attempted any of his non-horror work. I can readily believe he might be better at other things than he is at horror.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 3 Nov 17 | 11:35AM by Platypus.

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 3 November, 2017 12:09PM
On a theory that an author's early work might tend to be better, I decided to read "Bat's Belfry", which is the first story Derleth every published in WEIRD TALES (after numerous rejections).

I can't say it is very good. It is a clumsily written vampire story, that is so obvious and unsubtle that is is almost comical. But it had energy. I must admit, I rather enjoyed it.

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 13 November, 2017 04:31PM
Douglas Anderson suggests that Derleth merged Lovecraft and Tolkien in one of his stories. What do you think of Anderson's argument here?

[tolkienandfantasy.blogspot.com]

Re: seeking an assessment of Derleth, as a writer of fiction
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 14 November, 2017 05:51AM
I dunno about that one. The whole "inherited a relative's estate" gimmick was not uncommon for Derleth in his Mythos stories, going back to "The Thing That Walked On the Wind," and the rest of "The Seal of R'lyeh" has no connection or parallels to The Hobbit. I might be inclined to think that Derleth's description of the seal-ring and it's effects might have been an inspiration, but I wouldn't say it was definitive.



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