HPLovecraftsBookOfTheSupernaturalStephen Jones (editor)
Pegasus Books

Written by one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, Lovecraft’s 1927 essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” traces the evolution of the genre from the early Gothic novels through to the work of contemporary American and British authors. Throughout Lovecraft acknowledges those writers and stories that are the very finest that the horror field has to offer: Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Guy de Maupassant, and Arthur Conan Doyle, among others.

I’ve been reading a lot more collections lately. A lot of these collections of short stories happen to fall under the “classics” heading, although there are those that carry modern tales and a mix of classics and modern lore. This entire year (2010, in case you’re wondering) I think I’ve read only one full-on novel, while the other books are of the short story collections. There’s something about collections, really; they’re bite-sized in length, but still manage to pack a literary punch, especially in the supernatural and horror genre. But enough mindless meanderings, on with this recently read book here, H. P. Lovecraft’s Book Of The Supernatural.

Essentially, this collection features tales from authors that are mentioned in Lovecraft’s essay Supernatural Horror In Literature. That particular essay was Lovecraft’s critical shout-out, as it were, to the genre that he was quite prolific in. Hey, the main inspiration for modern horror had to have inspiration himself, right? Editor Stephen Jones put together this collection of short stories by some of the authors mentioned in that essay, with a quotation from Lovecraft’s essay leading into the story provided.

Of the authors featured in this collection, the ones that I recognized right off the bat were Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Steveson, Rudyard Kipling, Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The other ones – Guy de Maupassant, Erckmann-Chatrian, Villiers de l’Isle Adam, Fitz James O’Brien, Ambrose Bierce, F. Marion Crawford, Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Lafcadio Hearn, H. R. Wakefield, May Sinclair, William Hope Hodgson and Arthur Machen – I found myself interested in looking further into after reading their work here in this book.

What I discovered, though, is that this particular edition of H. P. Lovecraft’s Book Of The Supernatural is a Barnes & Noble version, that only features 19 stories, as well as the introduction by Stephen Jones, and a short excerpt from Lovecraft’s essay on writing weird fiction. The original Pegasus version has 20 stories; the one story not featured on the B&N version was the Henry James classic Turn Of The Screw. When I discovered that little omission, I was not very happy. Still, I think it has something to do with B&N publishing the full story by itself in its classics line.

Despite that little…um, shortcoming in this edition, I found this collection to be rather enjoyable, and went far to expand my interest in classic weird fiction. Highly recommend this book, but would recommend trying to get this with the Turn Of The Screw included.