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Christie, in proportion as she is more expert and concentrates more narrowly on the puzzle, has to eliminate human interest completely, or rather fill in the picture with what seems to me a distasteful parody of it.In this new novel she has to provide herself with puppets who will be good for three stages of suspense: you must first wonder who is going to be murdered, you must then wonder who is committing the murders, and you must finally be unable to foresee which of two men the heroine will marry.I am always being reminded that the most serious public figures of our time, from Woodrow Wilson to W. Enchanted though I had been with Sherlock Holmes, I got bored with the Thinking Machine and dropped him, beginning to feel, at the age of twelve, that I was outgrowing that form of literature.
Cthulhu, of course, is the name of one of the giant alien beings that haunt the work of the early twentieth-century fantasist H. So otherworldly is Cthulhu that, the narrator says, “the Thing cannot be described.” He must resort to describing an artist’s bas-relief rendering: It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive.
The creature first appeared in “The Call of Cthulhu” (1928), a story about a man who travels the world searching for manifestations of this mammoth visitor from another planet.
This I had found also a source of annoyance in the case of Mr.
Stout, who, however, has created, after a fashion, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin and has made some attempt at characterization of the people that figure in the crimes; but Mrs.
I finally felt that I was unpacking large crates by swallowing the excelsior in order to find at the bottom a few bent and rusty nails, and I began to nurse a rankling conviction that detective stories in general profit by an unfair advantage in the code which forbids the reviewer to give away the secret to the public—a custom which results in the concealment of the pointlessness of a good deal of this fiction and affords a protection to the authors which no other department of writing enjoys.
It is not difficult to create suspense by making people await a revelation, but it demands a certain originality to come through with a criminal device which is ingenious or picturesque or amusing enough to make the reader feel the waiting has been worth while.He wrote, “The only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad art and bad taste.” For Wilson, Lovecraft the man was more interesting than Lovecraft the writer:, and the impression he made on his friends must partly have been due to abilities that hardly appear in his fiction….The “Cthulhu Mythos” and its fabricated authorities seem to have been for him a sort of grownup boyhood game in which he diverted his solitary life by playing with other horror-story fanciers.I ought, I suppose, to discount the fact that “Death Comes as the End” is supposed to take place in Egypt two thousand years before Christ, so that the book has a flavor of Lloyd C. Christie (“No more Khay in this world to sail on the Nile and catch fish and laugh up into the sun whilst she, stretched out in the boat with little Teti on her lap, laughed back at him”); but her writing is of a mawkishness and banality which seem to me literally impossible to read.You cannot read such a book, you run through it to see the problem worked out; and you cannot become interested in the characters because they never can be allowed an existence of their own even in a flat two dimensions but have always to be contrived so that they can seem either reliable or sinister, depending on which quarter, at the moment, is to be baited for the reader’s suspicion.Lovecraft’s “boyhood game” has since been championed by other critics and by writers such as Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King. Almost everybody I know seems to read them, and they have long conversations about them in which I am unable to take part. Now, except for a few of the Father Brown stories by Chesterton, for which I did not much care, I have not read any detective stories since one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of the imitators of Sherlock Holmes—a writer named Jacques Futrelle, now dead, who invented a character called the Thinking Machine and published his first volume of stories about him in 1907.He had been sketching Cthulhu in a surprisingly soft hand.In his rendition, many appendages emanated from a central vertical column; it had the majesty of a redwood tree.The veteran was Wayne Barlowe, a mild, bespectacled man in his fifties; he had collaborated with del Toro on “Hellboy” and had helped define many of the creatures in “Avatar,” including the Great Leonopteryx, the flying beast that Jake Sully tames on the planet Pandora.Barlowe still draws with pencils, and he sat in a sunny corner room.