Ginger Nuts of Horror
Occult Detective Quarterly is devoted to those intrepid investigators who investigate the weird, exotic and bizarre. These are the people who explore the darkness, both within and beyond, often to their own peril and the expense of their very lives and sanity.
The concept of an ‘Occult Detective’ actually goes back many years to writers of the 19th century like Poe, William Hope Hodgson, Algernon Blackwood, E. & H. Heron and many more. We’ve long been fans of the genre and now seek to celebrate it in all its forms in this new magazine from Electric Pentacle Press
As this is a magazine with a variety of content I shall comment on it between stories/articles.
Got My Mojo Working. By David T. Wilbanks and William Meikle.
Well, first story is one of Gus, a private detective with a twist in that he is a gorilla. It piles on familiarity as the detective is hard drinking, hard smoking, hard talking and in general just hard. At first the fact that he is a gorilla seems somewhat ludicrous; however, as the tale goes on the detective’s simian nature comes to the fore and actually makes contextual sense. Unfortunately, there are two major issues I have with this story, one of which is the enormous spoiler given by the insertion of an excellent illustration by Wayne M Miller before the text begins in which you can clearly see what this Gorilla Grodd of gumshoes is up against. The second issue, even more important than the first, is that there’s a very big question of how a gorilla became significantly more intelligent than average, acquired the power of speech and became of all things a Private Detective. This, for me at least, is where the more interesting story lies. That is not to say that ‘Got my Mojo working’ is a bad one, it isn’t, I enjoyed the simplicity and quirkiness, but I would much rather have read an ‘origin’ type tale.
Could I see myself reading more of this character’s tales? Yes, certainly.
When Soft Voices Die. By Amanda DeWees.
Again it is unfortunate that the illustration, this time by Robert Freeman, acts as a spoiler. Maybe it’s just me, but I would really like to see these either partly through the story, or at the end, with the latter being preferred. As to the story itself it should be a fairly straightforward and by the numbers ghost story, somewhat clichéd with the vengeful ghost theme. However, this story makes even the most familiar aspects appear fresh, it is carefully paced and to my mind at least, exhibits an elegance most modern day horror writers appear hard-pressed to emulate. Definitely a quality story.
Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You By Adrian Cole
Nick ‘Nightmare’ Stone is another detective with a difference; in this case it’s the ability to travel to another dimension. The tightly packed narrative flows smoothly as it tells the tale of a collector of exceptional rarities who hires Nick to bring him something which is quite literally out of this world. Adrian Cole’s characters are richly rendered, with just enough detail surrounding them to allow us to know the private worlds of each, without it being intrusive. The denouement is actually quite sad yet strangely appropriate. Well worth the read. No illustration for this one.
Orbis Tertius By Josh Reynolds
(Illustration by Mutartis Boswell)
Orbis tertius is something which to my mind at least reminded me very much of the essence of the Avengers TV series, that’s the John Steed and Mrs Peel version as opposed to the more recent superhero fare. As with the Avengers there’s a supernatural element and initially I was considering that the story would be a little dull and dusty but was pleasantly surprised to find it was written with a deft touch and a humorous tone. There is something seriously amiss at the Voyagers Club, and it is up to Charles St Cyprian and his relatively new charge Ebe Gallowglass to sort things out. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to comment more on the story, it would I fear give away too much, suffice to say I enjoyed it. St Cyprian and Gallowglass are well poised for many more adventures, which can only be a good thing.
Monochrome By T. E. Grau
(Illustration by Dave Felton.)
This is the longest story the magazine has to offer, which is unfortunate as it was my least favourite. My reason for saying that is simple; the story seemed to me to have very little going on that required 26 pages to describe it. I cannot remember reading anything in recent years which described so many largely irrelevant things in so much detail, hardly any of which made the experience any richer for me. It’s a shame because this obviously has got a story hidden in it somewhere as the basic idea is interesting enough with certain things defying the laws of physics, strange hooded figures acting in unison et cetera. Henry Ganz is the ex-cop, ex-reporter who is now a writer/private investigator and the general hero of this story. He is very well fleshed out and believable, but for me it was just not enough. Who knows, maybe you’ll love it, this is after all just one person’s opinion, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see what other people think. I’ll probably get hate mail for saying this too, but I found Dave Felton’s illustration didn’t seem quite at home with the overall quality of the publication.
This is an article about the short lived comic book from Gold Key comics in the early 70s. Extremely informative, lavishly illustrated and a definite must read for anyone interested in comic books, especially those with an occult theme.
The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor. By Charles R. Rutledge.
The Man Behind Dr Spektor An Interview with Don F. Glut By Charles R.Rutledge
In a direct follow-on from the comic book article, Charles R Rutledge talks to the man responsible for creating the comic. As a former comic book collector I found this highly interesting and definitely a worthy addition to this magazine. It would be good to see similar features included in the future.
The Baron of Bourbon Street By Aaron Vlek
This is a lavish tail of Vodou with Baron Samedi strutting his spectral stuff in New Orleans. The story is one of deep horror which involves voodoo, zombies and betrayal told with such a natural voice that I was quickly immersed in the events and swept along by the poetry of it. Beautifully written, with excellent pace and a simple coherent plot, this for me was one of the more polished gems in this fine collection.
The Adventure Of The Black Dog By Oscar Dowson
A simple tale well told of a Gentleman moving into a new apartment which he will be looking after in the owner’s absence, soon to be confronted by the titular black dog, which is not all as straightforward as it may look. It’s actually something of a Genesis, the black dog being the means by which the main character learns of the existence of the Tulpa and of the remarkable Dr Crow. A supernatural event becomes the catalyst for what appears to be a Sherlock Holmes/Dr Watson type relationship. Although content wise it wasn’t as powerful as some of the other stories here, it was well written, good-natured and interesting enough for me to read more of their adventures.
The Occult Legion Chapter 1: The Nest By William Meikle
Now we are on to the novelty. It is only fitting that a magazine such as this would have a serialised work in it, and so it is that seven writers have formed ‘The Occult Legion’. It remains to be seen whether all seven writers will contribute chapters to this story, however, the pace has already been set by the very able Willie Meikle.
Alexander Seton, by orders of the King, attends the construction site of the King’s latest castle, where the digging of the foundations has been halted by something of a supernatural nature. For readers familiar with the works of Mr Meikle you’ll no doubt know what you are in for in this first chapter as it is as Scottish as haggis with just as distinct a flavour. There is a cave beneath the foundation dig which houses something unlike the wee beasties usually offered up by tales set in Scotland, which neatly elevated the story beyond the norm. What chapter 2 will have in store for us I can’t quite readily imagine, for whatever is, I’m sure it will be handled expertly and will be well worth subscribing to.
How To Be A Fictional Victorian Ghost Hunter (In five easy lessons). By Tim Prasil
When you have read the stories in this magazine, and assuming that you’re not a writer, you may want to have a go at writing your own. Tim Prasil has penned a handy little guide with something of a work through of what you may need to include in your story and why. Obviously well researched, it should set your gears turning with enough practical knowledge to make a good job of whatever you choose to do with the information. Mr Prasil has read through and analysed enough Victorian fiction to be able to speak with authority on the subject. Informative, highly practical and definitely worthy of inclusion in this magazine.
As well as the above stories and articles the magazine also has advertising and reviews. I do not believe it is necessary for me to review the reviews, or indeed to point out what they are reviewing, suffice to say that the genre reviewed is similar in content.
The magazine finishes off with the biographies of the writers contained therein, as well as a thank you to the magazine’s backers from their Kickstarter campaign.
Summary: a colourful, entertaining, informative magazine with a somewhat specific target audience. It has been some considerable time since I have read similar stories, but this magazine has certainly renewed my interest. On the basis of what I’ve read I would actually recommend this magazine to anyone with an interest in supernatural tales or indeed detective fiction. Cracking first edition, well done chaps.