Sunday, December 15, 2013

Howard's Horrors: The Fearsome Touch of Death!

"As long as midnight cloaks the earth 
                    With shadows grim and stark,
God save us from the Judas kiss, 
                    Of a dead man in the dark"
                                        - Robert E. Howard

Hey all, Luke here! I recently read The Fearsome Touch of Death, so I wanted to jot down a few of my impressions here on the blog. First published in Weird Tales in February 1930, you can now access this story for free on both Feedbooks and Project Gutenberg

If possible, this story is even more straightforward than Sea Curse! With (barely) a three character cast, and text that spans a scant 2-3 pages, this definitely qualifies as a quick-fix of some REH goodness. Our protagonist, Falred, draws the unfortunate lot of waking the dead with the recently-passed, ill-liked Adam Farrel. What proceeds for our man Falred is a great bit "slow boil" -type horror as the night plays out. The ending resonated with me, as it reminded me of multiple yarns I had heard and read as a child. 

In short, this is a familiar story with a recognizable hook at the end, but it's exactly that familiarity and common horror element that I think is the story's greatest merit. 

This seems to be a story with sporadic occurrences in varied Howard collections. Given it's short length, it's clear why it has a presence in multiple fanzines. I came across this story's inclusion in The "New" Howard Reader #2 (1998) while sifting through some searches on the internet. And while the cover is unrelated to The Fearsome Touch..., it certainly has some pizzazz! 

I have to be honest, outside of the knowledge-bomb Mark Finn dropped on us in our last episode, I'm a noob to the fanzine scene. But boy, am I interested after I came across this article on The Cimmerian! Seems like there's a wealth of odd REH collections out there, both pro and amateur alike . I've seen very few of these types of publications pop-up at my local used bookstores, but I'm definitely going to hop on board with some of the more modestly-priced collections if I run across them!

Have you read The Fearsome Touch...? What did you think?

Are you a collector of the older chapbooks or fanzines? If so, how did you get started? Sound off in the comments below, we'd love to hear about this niche within the pulp scene!