The Inhabitant of the Lake and Other Unwelcome Tenants — book review

The Inhabitant of the Lake and Other Unwelcome Tenants by Ramsey Campbell. Illustrations by Randy Broecker. PS Publishing ‘19.99,

Reviewed by John Howard

This is a new and greatly enhanced edition of Ramsey Campbell’s first collection, published by Arkham House in 1964 as The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants (the title had to be altered due to a mix-up, and the opportunity to restore it has been taken here).

As well as the original ten stories and ‘A Word from the Author’ we get lots of extras. Several stories are also given in the versions as first submitted. Campbell describes how he discovered H P Lovecraft and started to write his own Cthulhu Mythos stories, contacting August Derleth to ask if he would be willing to criticise them. It was 1961, and Campbell was fifteen. Derleth’s response was welcoming, and the rest is history. Several of Derleth’s letters to Campbell ‘ including that first one ‘ are reproduced. They show the pro’s readiness to spend time working with a new and completely unknown writer, and to give plenty of constructive criticism (often bluntly stated). Derleth urged Campbell to forget Massachusetts and to create his own places in contemporary England, and above all provided the encouragement to make him revise, rewrite, and try and try again. Campbell made his first sale to Derleth the following year; that story, ‘The Church in High Street,’ is also included along with its first version ‘The Tomb-Herd’.

Reading an author’s earliest published work inevitably leads to comparisons with what followed. The stories in The Inhabitant of the Lake are for the most part rather painful and obvious pastiches barely redeemed by their vivid settings. But they also show Campbell’s ability to learn quickly: as the stories go on the characters at least start talking to each other in a much more believable way. It only took a couple more years for Ramsey Campbell to leave behind the false notion that ‘the style makes the stories’ and to journey into his own unique voice.

The Inhabitant of the Lake and Other Unwelcome Tenants by Ramsey Campbell. Illustrations by Randy Broecker. PS Publishing £19.99.

Reviewed by John Howard

This is a new and greatly enhanced edition of Ramsey Campbell’s first collection, published by Arkham House in 1964 as The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants (the title had to be altered due to a mix-up, and the opportunity to restore it has been taken here).

As well as the original ten stories and ‘A Word from the Author’ we get lots of extras. Several stories are also given in the versions as first submitted. Campbell describes how he discovered H P Lovecraft and started to write his own Cthulhu Mythos stories, contacting August Derleth to ask if he would be willing to criticise them. It was 1961, and Campbell was fifteen. Derleth’s response was welcoming, and the rest is history. Several of Derleth’s letters to Campbell ‘ including that first one ‘ are reproduced. They show the pro’s readiness to spend time working with a new and completely unknown writer, and to give plenty of constructive criticism (often bluntly stated). Derleth urged Campbell to forget Massachusetts and to create his own places in contemporary England, and above all provided the encouragement to make him revise, rewrite, and try and try again. Campbell made his first sale to Derleth the following year; that story, ‘The Church in High Street,’ is also included along with its first version ‘The Tomb-Herd’.

Reading an author’s earliest published work inevitably leads to comparisons with what followed. The stories in The Inhabitant of the Lake are for the most part rather painful and obvious pastiches barely redeemed by their vivid settings. But they also show Campbell’s ability to learn quickly: as the stories go on the characters at least start talking to each other in a much more believable way. It only took a couple more years for Ramsey Campbell to leave behind the false notion that ‘the style makes the stories’ and to journey into his own unique voice.