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Claremont Tales
Richard A. Lupoff
Golden Gryphon Press, 290 pages

Art: N. Jainschigg
Claremont Tales
Richard A. Lupoff
Richard A. Lupoff was born in 1935. He has worked in print journalism, in information technology, as a radio show host and in book publishing. His novels include One Million Centuries (1967), Sandworld (1976), Space War Blues (1978), Circumpolar! (1984), Countersolar! (1986), Lovecraft's Book (1985), The Forever City (1988), as well as a number of mystery novels. A collection of his short fiction, Before... 12:01... and After, was published by Fedogan & Bremer in 1996.

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A review by Hank Luttrell

Richard Lupoff is a veteran writer with many successes to his credit, but without a huge breakout bestseller or a large, loyal following of readers. He seems to have an understanding of his mid-list standing, when he says in his introduction to this collection of his short stories that one of his problems is his versatility. As he points out, he has written space opera, experimental fiction, dark fantasy, murder mysteries, lots of stuff. Maybe most recreational readers are traditional in the sense that they would prefer to pigeonhole their favourite writers, and not have them roam around so much. Most publishers would absolutely rather treat writers like brand names, to be marketed as particular flavours of entertainment.

For me, Richard A. Lupoff is one of my favourite mystery writers. If you can find a copy of his wonderful The Comic Book Killer, treat yourself to something special and read it.

But hey, I appreciate versatility, and I'm sure you do too.

The first story here is "Black Mist," a murder mystery which takes place in a Japanese scientific colony on the moon. This is a fine, atmospheric thriller, in a locale that places the characters and culture in a high-contrast environment.

Another mystery, which seems to be a vampire story, uses a Lupoff character modelled on Philo Vance and others. Some modern readers may feel that Van Dine's Philo Vance stories haven't aged well, so you may enjoy Lupoff's story more than the originals.

"The Monster and Mr. Greene" and "Mr. Greene and the Monster" is a 1952 juvenilia and a modern sequel; charmingly autobiographic, they look at Lupoff's thoughts and feelings about writing -- and selling -- fiction.

"The Adventures of Mr. Tindle" include two stories, the first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where it seemed to be quite popular. Mr. Tindle is obviously a James Thurber pastiche, but the sequel is actually able to subvert the misogyny of the model upon which it is based.

There are two H.P. Lovecraft pastiches. "Documents in the Case of Elizabeth Akeley" is a sequel to HPL's "The Whisperer in Darkness." One lively character in this story is a teenage publisher/editor of a UFO fanzine. This is interesting because when Lupoff was younger he published fanzines devoted to comics. The second HPL-influenced story is titled "Discovery of the Ghooric Zone." An eerie alternate Earth is ruled by plundering monarchs, but unifies to fight the invasion by the Deep Ones from the ocean. Against this background, the narration focuses on a scientific expedition to Yuggoth -- the tenth planet, and its moons Thog and Thok. Sounds sort of like the modern concept, the Ort Cloud, where Pluto may have been demoted from planetary status. Ort Cloud sounds rather Lovecraftian, come to think of it.

A few words of history are in order with this book. You've heard of Arkham House. It was founded by August Derleth to publish the works of Lovecraft in hardcover, and went on to publish many fantasy and even science fiction classics during Derleth's lifetime. James Turner became the Arkham House editor after Derleth's death, and was able to further enhance Arkham House by publishing important short story collections by talented writers. Arkham House had a lot going for it. An estimable reputation among readers and collectors, a corresponding history of increasing value for out-of-print titles; physically attractive books with traditional good design, and in Jim Turner, an editor of taste and vision.

I got to know Jim because I liked to attend a large science fiction convention in Collinsville, Illinois, near St. Louis. Jim would always attend because he lived nearby. I wanted to tell the convention about Turner because no one on the convention committee knew who he was; he never got recognition as an important editor. "That's the way I like it," he said, so I agreed not to rat him out.

Eventually Jim and Arkham House parted company. Some folks had always been uncomfortable with Jim's diverse interests, feeling that Arkham House was supposed to be a Dark Fantasy specialist. For Jim's part, he may have felt he did too much Dark Fantasy. "I've spent my whole career editing books about man-eating frogs," he told me after finishing a long book by a major horror writer. The book was certainly Dark Fantasy, and destined for automatic success, but Jim thought it was a bit predictable.

James Turner edited a novel by Lupoff for Arkham House, in which Lovecraft is a character: Lovecraft's Book. The short story collection which became Claremont Tales was conceived by James Turner as a project for Golden Gryphon when he founded this publisher after leaving Arkham House. Gary Turner, James Turner's brother, has brought the project to fruition.

Claremont Tales is a wonderful book, and the sort with which more commercial publishers would not have bothered. Nicholas Jainschigg's dust jacket painting and interior illustrations are attractive and appropriately eerie. The book design is sound and appealing. I would have preferred to see black cloth on the boards, rather than the bright purple stuff. But it was nicer than the paper with which most boards are covered. So like Arkham House, Golden Gryphon has a lot going for it.

Copyright © 2001 Hank Luttrell

Hank Luttrell has reviewed science fiction for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo Award and is currently a bookseller in Madison, Wisconsin.

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