Ginger Nuts of Horror
Reading Levi Black’s debut novel “Red Right Hand” was an interesting experience for this humble reviewing. Normally for GNoH I simply review the best of what I read myself, but this was the first time someone had taken the trouble to send me something specifically to cover. Exciting! What if I didn’t like it? What would I say? I wouldn’t normally bother reviewing books that weren’t me cup of tea. If I’m being frank “Red Right Hand” isn’t normally the type of horror novel I would read myself, but I found this punchy 300 page read an enjoyable enough page-turner and had no bother finishing it over a blood-spilling and very violent few days.
A gripe to begin with, and lots of other novels fit into this category also so Levi Black is not alone. I’m not particularly a fan of works of fiction which inhabit worlds created by other authors. In the case of “Red Right Hand” Levi Black sets his story in a version of the Lovecraftian Universe and the main character a spunky young woman Charlie Tristam Moore is a descendant of the big dog HP Lovecraft himself and because of this has magical powers which demons and gods wish to exploit. Is there any difference between this in HPL? The main demon, which has numerous names including the Red Right Hand, is also a player from the Lovecraft Universe. I appreciate this is common in fan fiction and others may really dig it but for me it’s the same goes for Tolkien etc, only Tolkien should write about Middle Earth and when Robert Jordan died I gave up on the Wheel of Time series, no nothing personal to Levi Black. And if another dude starts writing in Pratchett’s Discworld I’ll be going round to his house to kick their door in…..
I admit I’m far from an expert on Lovecraft with the exception of some short stories over the years so good old Wikipedia helped me out with deciding whether all the demons were from Lovecraft or whether the author made them up himself. So I think many of them are known as Elder Gods in Lovecraft’s world, but I may be wrong. The story concerned a damaged young woman, with serious mental blowback from an earlier sexual assault, being recruited by a demon with a variety of names, The Creeping Chaos, The Man in Black and officially Nyarlathotep. He tricks/sleazes Charlie into becoming his Acolyte (a powerful follower) and wants to use her power because of the magical Lovecraft connections. At the same time the demon takes a boy, who Charlie has a thing for as a Minion (no real power and more of a slave/follower) called Daniel and threatens to kill the poor kid unless Charlie helps him with his plan to bring other demon gods back from another dimension in time in which they have been exiled for thousands of years.
Along the way there is a lot of violence and many, many different demons. People get turned inside out, cleaved in half, tortured, infected with cancers and various horrible demon gods duke it out as The Red Right Hand, Charlie and Daniel go on their quest through different dimensions. I like a fear factor in my horror and this novel lacked this key element. There was just too much of the same and this was a real weakness as much of the novel involved going from place to place and demon to demon. It was a decent smash, bang, wallop kind of fantasy horror, but personally I prefer my horror to be more layered, slower paced building a sense of dread. In my book a flutter of a curtain can be scarier than someone being ripped in half, but this wasn’t that style, fair enough though.
Charlie was a nice enough character and the banter between her and The Red Right Hand was entertaining. I was also a huge fan of Nyarlathoten’s coat which was almost a character in itself and had a supernatural connection with Charlie, being the living skin of some victim of the demon god. It was very cool. Also, when there is so much violence featuring an endless like of weird and horrible creatures which are only mimicking the shape of man then it got a bit too much for me. When we were introduced to ‘Octopenis’ man I had had just about enough of these demon god guys. As the novel hurtled to the end even the mighty Cthulhu himself came out fighting. I wonder what a huge fan of Lovecraft would thing of this sort of work which relies so heavily on their top guy’s work? As I said I am no expert on Lovecraft, and these days he seems to be just as famous for his politics, as his monsters. I believe the novel is named after the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song of the same name. Plenty of killing and swagger in that song too and the cool name certainly fitted the nasty lead demon who also enjoyed a cup of coffee, which made me smile.
It’s an interesting debut novel from an author who obviously loves his horror and I’ll watch with interest to see whether he returns again to Lovecraft, with a possible sequel, or branches elsewhere. The novel, billed as a “Cthulhu horror for the modern generation” has been picking up very good reviews, and top authors such as Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Holden and Cherie Priest have praised it highly.