W. H. Pugmire is one of the best authors of cold, cosmic horror working today and his tales are often in the same vein as the Grand Old Gent from Providence, H. P. Lovecraft. Over the years Mr. Pugmire has carved out a sold slice of Mythos horror to call all his very own with his wonderfully weird tales set in the haunted Sesqua Valley, a place as much Pugmire as Arkham is Lovecraft. So these are the man’s tentacled-tinged bona fides. For weird fiction, no one delivers the goods as reliably as Mr. Pugmire and I’m happy to say that this latest collection of stories by him is no exception to that rule.

The Strange Dark One is Pugmire’s take on Lovecraft’s infamous Crawling Chaos, the Mighty Messenger, the thing behind a thousand masks, Nyarlathotep. Only eight stories make up this rather slim volume that totals only 153 pages. However, each of the eight stories is a dark gem, or different facets on a Shining Trapezohedron of the macabre. Some stories were very short, as the four page long, “The Audient Void”, others boarded on novella in scope if not in in actual size like the titular tale, “The Strange Dark One.”  But big or small, I loved them all. Not one of the eight tales was a stinker or just included in the book as padding. Each added their own little something to the overall shadowy passion play of the avatar of the end times. Best of all, each one was excellent examples of Pugmirer’s polished poetic proses and were a shuddering joy to read.

However, while reading the stories I was struck with a strange sense of Déjà vu on more than one occasion. I was sure I had read this or that tale before, but there was no previous publishing credits listed in the book as you would expect to find for reprints. So I contacted the publisher and asked if any of the stories in this Dark One were reprints and found out that yes, some of them were. Now that’s not a bad thing nor all that big of a deal, but I do think that should have been mentioned somewhere in the book. Giving credit where it is due and all that. Still, if that’s the lone fault I can find with this tiny terror tome, and it is, then that should speak volumes on how much I enjoyed it, even if I had read some of the stories before.

Oh and if eight great stories by W. H. Pugmire wasn’t enough of a reason to pick up this book, the cover and interior art is done by another author I admire the hell out of, Jeffrey Thomas. Who knew the guy could draw? So yeah, there’s that acting as the cherry on the top of this magnificent Mythos milkshake. Mmmmm, so damn tasty.

W. H. Pugmire takes H. P. Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep and makes it his own while staying true to the heart of the source material. That’s no mean feat, and yet here Mr. Pugmire makes it look far too easy.  Fans of Lovecraft’s extended Cthulhu Mythos should get this book. Fans already familiar with Pugmire’s hypnotic, poetic prose should get this book. Fans of weird fiction done with style and class should get this book. Basically everyone should get this book. Yep, it’s that good.

About Brian Sammons