On April 27, I wrote a Vintage Treasures article about Robert E. Howard’s The People of the Black Circle, one of the first fantasy books I ever owned.
The Comments section quickly became a discussion of REH collecting, with readers swapping photos of their favorite Howard books. Joe H. shared a LibrayThing catalog of his Howard collection, noting the hardest title to find had been Cthluhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors. “It took me years to track down a copy,” he said.
Well, that’s exactly the kind of thing that perks up a collector’s ears. Intrigued, I went on a quest to find my own copy of Cthluhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors, a collection of Robert E. Howard’s Cthulhu stories.
I finally succeeded this week, after a two-week search. I settled in with my new copy today. First thing I noticed is that the cover, by Stephen Hickman, depicts a treasured artifact from my own collection: the Hickman-designed Cthulhu statute by Bowen Designs — a prized collectible these days. Now that it’s worth something, maybe my wife will let me bring it up out of the basement.
The other thing I noticed is that this is a sizable collection: 250 pages. While I knew Howard had made some minor contributions to Lovecraft’s famous milieu before his death, I had no idea he’d written so many stories that could be categorized as part of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Perhaps editor David Drake has been fairly liberal with his selections. I note that “Pigeons from Hell” is included, and that’s only peripherally a Cthulhu story — but it’s a damn good tale, so I’m not complaining.
I haven’t encountered any dealing with Cthulhu directly yet, but the back cover text implies he’s in the mix:
The true gods of Earth existed long before our ancestors crawled mindless upon the shore: Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlathotep… insatiate, tenebrous monsters, whose ultimate throne is Chaos.
Greatest of all is he called Cthulhu. Only in ancient, blasphemous manuscripts can that name be found… and those who decipher it are left pale and numb, aware that in the very act of decipherment they have become both pawn and prey of an ultra-worldly power that renders human existence both tenuous and trite.
The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall remain… long after they have devoured us.
I’ve been enjoying David Drake’s introduction — although it’s a rather bleak look at Howard’s life. It also suggests that his suicide was partially triggered by the death of his 12-year old dog, a theory I hadn’t encountered before.
Here’s the complete table of contents:
“Introduction” by David Drake
“The Black Stone”
“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”
“The Thing on the Roof”
“Dig Me No Grave”
“Silence Falls on Mecca’s Walls” (poem)
“The Valley of the Worm”
“The Shadow of the Beast”
“Old Garfield’s Heart”
“People of the Dark”
“Worms of the Earth”
“Pigeons From Hell”
“An Open Window” (poem)
Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors was edited by David Drake and published by Baen Books in 1987. There were at least two additional printings, in 1989 and 1992. It is 250 pages in paperback, with a cover price of $2.95.
It is currently out of print, and there is no digital edition, but fortunately it wasn’t actually all that challenging to find. I paid $6.49 for a copy in new condition online.