Three years ago, I wrote a piece about the Joseph Payne Brennan paperback collection The Shapes of Midnight. Joseph Payne Brennan, like Carl Jacobi and Donald Wandrei, is a writer I like to revisit from time to time.
The Feaster From Afar is another of those Midnight House hardbacks that I got back in 2009. In fact, I think that was the last Midnight House book to ever come out (2008). It was supposed to be the first of four volumes collecting Brennan’s weird, macabre, and horror fiction. Sadly, the following volumes were never produced.
Editor/publisher John Pelan has a good introduction on the career of Brennan and his importance on keeping horror fiction going in the 1950s and 60s with his magazine, Macabre. The plan for the four volumes to be assembled on thematic lines. Having just reread the contents, my guess the theme is somewhat scientific rationales for horrors and Lovecraft Mythos based stories.
The Feaster From Afar contains 24 stories over 285 pages. The book contains his classic “Slime” (from Weird Tales) which might be the basis for the movie The Blob.
“Canavan’s Back Yard” and its sequel “Canavan Calling” are included.
A couple of stories are downbeat science fiction, “The Gulf of Night” about a spaceship travelling outside the galaxy. “Extermination” about the horrors that a nuclear war spawns.
There are a few reanimated corpse stories: “On the Elevator,” “Black Thing at Midnight,” “The Corpse of Charlie Rull,” and “Monton.” Those are simply executed grisly stories.
There are eight or possibly nine stories depending on your definition that are Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian in tone.
I read the titular story, “The Feaster From Afar” in the D.A.W. Books anthology, The Disciples of Cthulhu. I remember liking Brennan’s story much more than the others. I bought the book at a used bookstore, read it, and then took it back. That is an uncommon book to find today.
Brennan did not load his stories down with too much window trapping taken from H. P. Lovecraft’s stories. He has a forbidden tome or two but does not depend on the Mythos tinsel to create shivers. His stories are atmospheric but without near parody that all too many Mythos stories descend.
One story that was off beat but tickled my fancy was “Lottman’s End.” A priest is summoned for the last rites for Lottman, who was a real bastard in his life. A wasted, alcoholic body living in a run-down rooming house is Lottman last days on this Earth. A malign spirit materializes in the corner of the room waiting for Lottman to die. Lottman gets some help as a half circle of phantom dogs become visible. It turns out Lottman was always feeding strays, giving help to injured dogs etc. Those spirit dogs protect Lottman until his passing.
The Feaster From Afar does show up on Ebay. A look right now shows two copies for $59.00. The original price was $45.00. I wish someone would pick and finish publishing the other three volumes in the projected Selected Weird Tales series.