Science fiction does not generally find its way onto my reading list. But Carter & Lovecraft, described as the start of Jonathan L. Howard’s thrilling supernatural series that brings the myths of H.P. Lovecraft into the 21st Century, somehow found its way onto my audible list. I’m actually not even sure I remember downloading it, but there it was, below Casino Island, https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/camino-island-by-john-grisham/, and above The Jane Austen Project. I pressed play and found myself first at a strange murder scene in NYC, then much more happily, at a bookstore in Providence, Rhode Island.
I’m pretty happy with any novel that includes a whip-smart librarian with a shotgun whoruns a bookstore. Emily Lovecraft is a descendant of sci-fi horror fiction author H.P. Lovecraft: a real guy — I wasn’t sure as I read Carter & Lovecraft if H.P. Lovecraft was a clever variation of an author’s name that sounded vaguely familiar or a real guy. It’s the latter.
I also really enjoyed Dan Carter’s take on nearly everything. He’s smart, pragmatic, funny, and prepared — for almost anything. “In his experience, motives were simple. There was greed, there was jealousy, he’d seen plenty of revenge played out in gang-related crimes, there was even sadism, and sometimes there was flat-out stupidity, which was a pretty powerful motivator in itself.”
A bit of background: H.P. Lovecraft died in 1937 without achieving any financial success during his lifetime. By his own account, his themes were complex and spooky:
Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.
— H. P. Lovecraft, in note to the editor of Weird Tales, on resubmission of “The Call of Cthulhu
On to Carter & Lovecraft. Dan Carter is a NYC detective who is in on a catch that goes incredibly wrong when his partner dies at the scene. Soon after, Carter retires from the force and hangs his shingle as a P.I. Life is pretty dull until Carter is informed by a stranger-than-normal attorney that he has inherited property in Providence, Rhode Island from a person he doesn’t know. Intrepid Carter seeks out the property and discovers it’s a book store staffed by the beautiful Emily Lovecraft, she of the high cheekbones and shotgun. “Lovecraft angled her head back until she was looking at Harrelson down her nose. ‘I trained as a librarian, and I run a bookstore. Fucking right I can use a gun.'”
Before you can say Cthulhu Mythos, a professor has drowned in a dry car, an Atlantic City pit boss has literally exploded after eating a plate of ribs, and Dan Carter keeps finding himself on an eerie and inhospitable spit of land called Waits Bill where the women are much more than women and the men are even stranger.
Having no foundation in Lovecraft, I was a bit at a loss at times, but the plot — or enjoyment — of a ripping good read in Carter & Lovecraft is not dependent on that knowledge.
Should your book club read it? Truthfully, you know your book buddies better than I do. Were I to bring Carter & Lovecraft to my own home club, I think my friends would turn on me faster than a Wait woman turns on a strange man. But just in case you do, I’ve got a few food and music suggestions:
BBQ Ribs. Truly, this is your only choice. And some bourbon. Recipes below.
In Atlantic City, Bernie Hayesman looked at the plate of ribs, and he was not happy. He had asked for an omelet, a simple omelet to be sent up to his office, and they had sent ribs. He couldn’t understand it. He’d spoken to the chef personally. They’d discussed eggs, if briefly. There was no earthly way “omelet” could have been misconstrued as “ribs”. He looked at the plate of ribs, and the ribs looked back. Neither he nor they were overjoyed at the situation.
Rhode Island Clam Dip
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 package Gravy Mix
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 (6.5 ounce) can chopped clams, drained
- 2 teaspoons Parsley Flakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook bacon in large skillet on medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until translucent. Stir in Gravy Mix, milk and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes or until gravy starts to thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in clams.
- Pour into 9-inch glass pie plate. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
- Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with bacon and parsley. Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
New Jersey’s Award-Winning Rib recipe from Big Joe’s Cookbook can be found here: http://nj1015.com/big-joes-award-winning-ribs-recipe/
Larcery Bourbon has an impressive selection of bourbon recipes on its website, but the Pressing Charges looks like a great combination for a rib dinner:
- 2 oz. Larceny Bourbon
- 2 oz. Ginger Ale
- 2 oz. Soda Water
- 2 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
In an Old Fashioned glass, combine Larceny, ginger ale and soda water. Float bitters on top.
My playlist would include:
Evil Woman, ELO
Dark Lady, Cher
Witchy Woman, The Eagles
Monster, Lady Gaga
Sweet Rhode Island Red, Ike & Tina Turner
Rhode Island is Famous for You, Michael Feinstein
The Last Resort, The Eagles
According to Kirkus Reviews, the book has been optioned by Warner Bros. and is headed to tv land. Here are my casting suggestions:
Dan Carter Aaron Eckhart
Emily Lovecraft Gabrielle Union
William Colt Thomas Decker
So . . . there you go. If you dare.