Wormwood: Literature Of The Fantastic, Supernatural And Decadent No 17 Edited by Mark Valentine. Zine review

WORMWOOD: LITERATURE OF THE FANTASTIC, SUPERNATURAL AND DECADENT NO 17 Edited by Mark Valentine, Tartarus Press, p/b, £8.99, www.tartaruspress.com

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Unlike many small press publications that feature short stories and a good dose of editorial content, Wormwood has articles and reviews on a number of novels. The ones for this, their seventeenth edition are written by what can only be described as a mixture of well-known and almost forgotten authors. Though almost everyone must know some of the works of HP Lovecraft, others, for example might not have heard of Ernest Bramah or Donald Armour. That aside, Wormwood has some very interesting articles that deserve recognition.

One of the positive aspects of this book is the articles give so much to the reader about the lives of the writers, and that emotion at the time they were writing their best works. Some had awful upbringings, and this was what shaped them to become the writers they were in their day. HP Lovecraft had a childhood illness that caused him to be housebound most of the time. This gave rise to his interest in books, and reading, but it also gave him a negative, insular view of the world outside he simply did not know of, and as a result feared. Joel Lane, author of The Terrible Changes and The Witnesses are Gone goes into great detail about Lovecraft’s works and how they define the man.

There are six articles of the past masters of literature, and they all detail not just the novels themselves but the settings they were in, and the lives these writers must have lived. Everyone’s favourite, the vampire is mentioned in Reginald Hodder Author of The Vampire, where James Doig tries to take us through the elusive life of Hodder, a relative of the man who started one half of the book publishers Hodder and Stoughton. Not much is known of his life other than he wanted to write books similar to others already out there which were previously successful, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. His novel tells of a different kind of vampire, yet the title alone at the time might have convinced the public to buy it.

The rest of the book concentrates on fiction reviews both large and small of the latest novels, and ones that the readers might have overlooked. Wormwood can be viewed as an excellent study companion if you are at college or university, or it can be good light reading for those interested in reading about their favourite authors.