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Cthulhu, of course, is the name of one of the giant alien beings that haunt the work of the early twentieth-century fantasist H. So otherworldly is Cthulhu that, the narrator says, “the Thing cannot be described.” He must resort to describing an artist’s bas-relief rendering: It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive.
When del Toro looked at it, he said, “I love the idea of the floating things!
” Cthulhu was surrounded by satellite parasites, just as some sharks are haloed by schools of fish. “Great.”Cthulhu has, in fact, made one previous appearance in our pages: in the issue of November 24, 1945, in which Edmund Wilson reviewed Lovecraft’s writings.
Lovecraft’s “boyhood game” has since been championed by other critics and by writers such as Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King.
Almost everybody I know seems to read them, and they have long conversations about them in which I am unable to take part. Now, except for a few of the Father Brown stories by Chesterton, for which I did not much care, I have not read any detective stories since one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of the imitators of Sherlock Holmes—a writer named Jacques Futrelle, now dead, who invented a character called the Thinking Machine and published his first volume of stories about him in 1907.
I was somewhat disappointed in the stories that made up this most recent book—“Not Quite Dead Enough” and “Booby Trap”—but, as they were both under the usual length and presented Nero Wolfe partly distracted from his regular profession by a rigorous course of training for the Army, I concluded that they might not be first-rate examples of what the author could do in this line and read also “The Nero Wolfe Omnibus” (World), which contains two earlier book-length stories: “The Red Box” and “The League of Frightened Men.” But neither did these supply the excitement I had hoped for.
If the later stories seemed sketchy and skimpy, these seemed to have been somewhat padded, for they were full of long episodes that led nowhere and had no real business to be in the story.
Barlowe said that he was going for a “regal look,” and pointed at the creature’s neck. Wilson was prompted to do so by reader complaints that Lovecraft had been omitted from his “Treatise on Tales of Horror,” published in 1944.
Wilson, who also famously deplored detective fiction, was no del Toro-style fanboy.
Christie, in proportion as she is more expert and concentrates more narrowly on the puzzle, has to eliminate human interest completely, or rather fill in the picture with what seems to me a distasteful parody of it.
In this new novel she has to provide herself with puppets who will be good for three stages of suspense: you must first wonder who is going to be murdered, you must then wonder who is committing the murders, and you must finally be unable to foresee which of two men the heroine will marry.