Neil is a fellow Star Wars What’s The Story alumn and Mythos enthusiast, and he’s wrangled some great talent for his house’s first book, including editor/author Brian M. Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, John Goodrich, Scott T. Goudsward, T. E. Grau, C.J. Henderson, Tom Lynch, the ever lovin’ William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas and Don Webb.
Lovecraft Ezine just did a midnight chat on the book which you can view here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRjmMBp7kw0
Unfortunately I had some technical issues and wound up missing it, but here’s what I WOULD have talked about –
Brian pitched Dark Rites to me as a Hammer Studios style take on the ritualistic aspect of the Lovecraftian Mythos, akin to Dennis Wheatley’s fiction (like The Devil Rides Out) and Curse Of The Demon. I latched onto the idea immediately (and had a hand in naming the book).
My story BLACK TALLOW is about a rare book translator and lapsed occultist who is called to the house of an old friend who claims to owe all his substantial worldly success to the pursuit of ritual magic. And yet, the wealthy practitioner is as yet spiritually unfulfilled, until he comes across a rare tome whose ultimate purpose is said to be to grant the occultist the greatest desire of his heart.
The story incorporates The Infernalius, a book which readers of my Merkabah Rider series will recognize.
Perhaps I share my character’s love of physical books, but I have to take a minute and talk about how impressed I am with the look of this anthology. As you can see, Neil distressed the cover image to give the book a very 1960’s paperback feel which I love. He’s also crafted a series of minimalist representational images for each of the stories.
Here’s an excerpt from BLACK TALLOW.
He moved to the book and removed the covering.
I leaned in close.
It was an ugly little thing, less than a hundred pages. It was bound in mottled, flaking, pale leather, and rather inexpertly, I thought. Some of the pages did not quite fit, as if they were mismatched, or taken from disparate sources. I squinted hard at the cover, which bore no markings. It was old, whatever it was.
“Anthropodermic bibliopegy,” he mumbled, very close to my ear. He was standing near, hovering almost.
“Binding in human skin?” I wrinkled my nose. Claims of book jackets made from human skin usually turned out to be unfounded. Pig skin was often mistaken for human. I had once seen a copy of deSade’s Justine et Juliette with a human nipple on the front board below the title, and another time, Carnegie’s biography of Lincoln bound in a black man’s hide. “Not very well done, is it?”
“It was stitched together by hand. By the same hand that did the fleshing and tanning.”
“Whose hand is that?” I asked, reaching out to thumb the pages.
“No, don’t open it!” he snapped. Then, more gently, “Let me.”
There was no title, only page after page of densely inscribed text, all in various hands, languages, even hieroglyphs on what looked like brittle papyrus. There were strange diagrams inside. I knew it was some kind of grimoire, but it was impossible for me to guess where it originated from.
“What is this, Paul? Some kind of scrapbook?”
“Sort of. Have you ever heard of the Infernalius?”
“Think back to the books we heard talked about in our college days, Raymond. The books your own grandfather had from his great uncle.”
That was Great Great Uncle Warren, the man family history had always told me I’d inherited my love of languages and old books from. He’d been a Classical Languages professor in Arkham, Massachussetts in the old days, and a chum of the somewhat notorious occult scholar Henry Armitage. Upon Warren’s death in 1931, most of his books and papers had been donated to his university, though a few had been passed on to his brother.
It was the revelation that I was Warren Rice’s great great grand nephew that had started off Paul’s fascination with me in school. He seemed to buy into the old story about how Warren and Armitage had had some strange mystical dealings in Dunwich in 1928 or so.
The books my grandfather had let us peruse in his study one summer that had belonged to Warren were mainly scholarly treatises, such as Copeland’s Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation, Casterwell’s Kranorian Annals, and von Junzt’s Nameless Cults.
Then I remembered.
“The Book of Books?”
“The Book of Books. Not some idle boast, but a literal description. A book hidden among the pages of seven other books.” He held up his hands and ticked them off, finger by finger. “The Book of Eibon, the Book of Karnak, the Testament of Carnamagos, the Ponape Scripture, de Vermiss Mysteriis, and the Scroll of Thoth-Amon. Each one a rare treasure in their own right.”
“Come on, Paul. It’s a fantasy,” I laughed. “The timeline’s all wrong. How could something be hidden in an ancient Egyptian scroll and a book written in 1542?”
“You know of the Akashic Record. The ethereal library of all knowledge written and unwritten which men may tap into. And the history says that The Dark Man entity dictated The Infernalius to the Hyborean wizard Gargalesh Svidren, who dispersed the knowledge through time. Abdul Al-Hazred hid the assembly instructions in the original, unexpurgated Arabic Kitab al-Azif. They’re only visible to those who already know it’s there. A book which rewards the practitioner with ultimate knowledge of the universe.”
“I thought it was supposed to end the world,” I said, pursing my lips. “How much did you get fleeced for buying this, Paul?”
“It’s the genuine article,” said Paul. “Dr. Francis Morgan recovered it from Old Noah Whateley’s personal library in Dunwich after the affair with your uncle and Professor Armitage. It’s been in a private collection since 1966, along with Whateley’s diary.”
“Noah Whateley kept a diary?” I said, incredulous.
Whateley’s reputation as a sorcerer was renowned, but like my own as a translator, only among certain circles. As students, we’d spent our junior year spring break in Arkham and Dunwich trying to learn all we could about him and run into a wall. I’d chalked it all up to being folklore. Paul had insisted the locals had protected us from the true knowledge.
“He did, and related his assembly of the book in 1882.”
“Finding the right copies of those books, unaltered by translation….it would’ve been impossible for one man,” I said.
“He was hired by a cult, the Order of The Black Dragon. You remember them.”
I nodded. Von Junzt had mentioned them, some sort of apocalyptic cult with origins in ancient Israel and adherents all over the globe.
“Their members gathered the required books and brought them to Whateley. He assembled them, and once the Order had performed the ritual and taken what they wanted from the book, he was sent back to Dunwich with it. Apparently it was their intention to call something forth, something that should have ended the world.”
“Well, so the book’s a fraud,” I said. “Obviously the world didn’t end.”
“The book’s purpose isn’t to end the world, but to grant the ritualist his heart’s desire. The Order wanted the end of the world. The book gave them the means. The book changes to fit the magician’s desire.”
“A book that changes? That’s crazy….”