Prior to reading THE THING IN THE MIST, I must confess that I was not familiar with the work of the late John S. Glasby, but what I learned of him intrigued me. Glasby, aside from being a research chemist and an astronomer, also wrote a number of what are often billed as “Lovecraftian” horror tales during the 1950s and 1960s. While we are inundated with Lovecraftian pastiches from the 1980s to the present, I hadn’t previously come across any of his fiction, nor much horror fiction of the Lovecraftian mold from this era. THE THING IN THE MIST is a collection of eleven of Glasby’s horror stories originally published in the British pulp magazine Supernatural Stories, along with a foreword by Edmund Glasby, one of his sons, and an afterword by Philip Harbottle, one of Glasby’s colleagues. Badger Books, a British publishing house specializing in pulp fiction, published 108 issues of the magazine Supernatural Stories between 1954 and 1967. While much of Supernatural Stories was the product of ultra-prolific pulp author Lionel Fanthorpe (under various literary guises), John S. Glasby also wrote prolifically for the magazine, ultimately writing over 300 (!) short stories and novels.
The stories contained in this collection, along with original dates of publication, are:
“The Black Mirror” (1967)
“The Sea Thing” (1954)
“The Haunting of Charles Quintain” (1967)
“The Thing in the Mist” (1967)
“The Dark Time” (1967)
“The Night-Comer” (1967)
“The Golden Scarab” (1955)
“The Pipes of Pan” (1959)
“Older Than Death” (1967)
“The Crystal Fear” (1955)
“The Creature in the Depths” (1959)
Some of the stories in THE THING IN THE MIST contain obvious Lovecraftian connections (notably “The Black Mirror,” concerning a journalist who ventures inside a newly discovered cities long-buried under the sands of North Africa). Most of the other stories in this collection are more standard horror stories in the vein of the old EC Comics from the 1950s if you remember those (e.g., “The Haunting of Charles Quintain” and the eponymous “The Thing in the Mist”). Most of Glasby’s stories, rather than containing new adventures of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods, involve voodoo, strange things crawling out of the sea, traditional demons/devils, ancient family curses, and the like. That doesn’t make these stories any less enjoyable, but I wouldn’t describe most as being particularly “Lovecraftian.” These are generally interesting, entertaining horror short stories from an era with which many of us may not be familiar. In some of these stories, their pulp roots show forth fairly clearly, so readers should be aware that they are likely not stories for those seeking detailed psychological explorations and subtleties. Having said that, Glasby’s stories are well written and no less enjoyable for their occasional lack of subtlety.
Horror tales from the pulp era are a bit of an acquired taste; if you are looking for the explicit, gruesome violence that we often see in modern horror fiction, you won’t find it here. You also won’t find, for the most part, deeply psychological or brooding tales of atmospheric horror. Glasby uses a variety of the iconic tropes of horror fiction to good effect, though, and he’s an engaging writer who crafts stories that fly right by. Personally, I enjoyed this collection of Glasby’s fiction and am curious about the remainder of his prolific output that was not collected here. Perhaps we will see a second collection of his horror fiction? Recommended, especially for those who wish to sample the classic horror tales from the pulps of the 1950s and 1960s.
Review copyright © 2013 J. Andrew Byers