The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallows Horror
Written By: John Llewellyn Probert
Created By: Stephen Jones
Published by: Pegasus Books
The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallows Horror is the first book in a new series created by award-winning horror editor, Stephen Jones, presenting a fresh approach to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthuhlu Mythos. The tales of the Cthuhlu Mythos, whether written by Lovecraft himself, his contemporaries, or modern authors, have always had a distinct fatalistic tone. There is even a role-playing game based upon the stories where the object isn’t to slay the dragon and collect the treasure but merely to survive with your sanity still intact.
The Lovecraft Squad takes a heroic pulp approach to the stories ancient Elder Gods and demons that ruled the world before man. The series begins with the idea that Lovecraft’s stories are not mere tales of fiction but rather eyewitness accounts to these horrors. In the 1930s, then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover establishes a special unit to battle these supernatural threats called the Cthuhlu Investigation Division (CID).
All Hallows Horrors takes place in the mid-1990s England. Following the discovery of several old scrolls and bone fragments unearthed during a construction project, the CID dispatches Professor Robert Chambers (a nod to Robert W. Chambers, an early influence on Lovecraft) to investigate the rare find. Chambers soon finds that everyone who comes in contact with the scrolls begins to experience revulsion and nightmares of unimaginable horrors.
Chambers is pestered by a local newspaper reporter named Karen Shepworth whom he begrudgingly allows to accompany him during his investigations since she, too, has begun to experience the very same nightmares. When they consult with Professor Rosalie Cruttenden, a local expert in Medieval Studies, they discover a link between the scrolls and an old Catholic church named All Hallows Church. The long abandoned church has gained a reputation for being haunted. Now, by coincidence or some insidious manipulation, the church is being opened as a publicity stunt to challenge several “lucky” winners of a contest to spend four nights locked inside with no contact to the outside world. Chambers, Karen, Dr. Cruttenden, and several others including a quack parapsychologist and a Catholic Priest, now willingly venture inside to uncover its connection to the recently unearthed artifacts and to discover what other secrets lie inside the foreboding church.
John Llewellyn Probert’s story is much more character and action driven than traditional Lovecraftian stories. While there is that atmosphere of impending and nameless horror the book is also heavily influenced by “Inferno” the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem detailing a journey through the Nine Circles of the Underworld. Probert thus infuses these elements into a truly nightmarish vision of Hell that often threatens to ooze off the page. While there is certainly a heroic slant to the characters they are not heroes in the traditional sense. They are everyday people put through the grinder by unspeakable forces of pure evil.
The book has a bit of a murky, indefinite ending although this may owe to being just the first part of a series. Even if you’re not a fan of Lovecraftian fiction, All Hallows Horror is a smashing, wild ride that should be on your reading list. The fact that this special unit of the FBI goes back to the 1930’s allows the writers to place their stories throughout different time periods and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.