01/06/2010. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: TOR/Forge. 189 page hardback. Price: $23.99 (US), $30.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2338-5. Necroscope: The Lost Years: Harry And The Pirates by Brian Lumley pub: Solaris/Rebellion Books. 412 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-906735-59-3.
check out websites: www.tor-forge.com , www.solarisbooks.com and www.brianlumley.com
'Necroscope: Harry And The Pirates' contains two short stories and one vignette. All three of them concern Brian Lumley's most famous character, the Necroscope Harry Keogh. These writings fit into the protagonist's past, what the author has dubbed the Necroscope's 'lost years'. None of the pieces is significant in the sense of clarifying something obscure about the Necroscope's past, but they do give fans of the series the chance to delve once more into the world Lumley has created around Harry Keogh.
The first of the short stories is 'For the Dead Travel Slowly', a classic piece of old-school horror. Keogh is holidaying in a sleepy seaside town where he becomes entangled in an old grudge between a local policeman and a tramp. As it turns out, they've both been deeply scarred by the death of young woman many years ago. The policeman blaming the tramp, while the tramp believes the killer is someone or rather something else entirely. Through a combination of detective work and his own uncanny skills, Keogh discovers that the death of the woman was just one among many and that something very dangerous and very ancient still stalks the woods around the town.
'Harry And The Pirates' is a more psychological piece, connected as it is with the Necroscope's search for his missing family. Throughout this story, he reflects on his life and, in particular, his quest and his new friend, Bonnie Jean Mirlu. Visiting Hartlepool of all places, Harry Keogh listens to the spirits of the city's ancient dead, among them the pirates who pillaged the coastline in ages past. One of them turns out to have an extraordinary story to tell, but Keogh soon discovers that all that is dead was not necessarily human when alive-
'Old Man And The Blade' is barely three pages long. It's essentially just one scene and doesn't really do much beyond hinting at the relationship between Keogh and Death itself. It's an interesting enough scene, but too brief and lacking in explanation to be anything other than a piece of ephemera.
Putting 'Old Man And The Blade' to one side, the value of the book rests on the quality of 'For the Dead Travel Slowly' and 'Harry And The Pirates'. Both are competently written. Of the two, 'For the Dead Travel Slowly' is perhaps the less original, if only in the sense that timeless horrors have been described many times by many different authors. 'Harry And The Pirates' is the more unusual story, but it lacks something of the atmospheric Englishness that makes 'For the Dead Travel Slowly' so engaging. On the other hand, it does have a certain Lovecraftian quality to it, echoing in particular tales such as 'The Thing On The Doorstep'.
For a hardback book containing essentially just two novellas plus one short scene, this book is a little pricey in the American edition I read. But the tales are good and 'Necroscope: Harry And The Pirates' should appeal to both Lumley fans and those who simply enjoy well-written horror fiction.
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