“Lovecraftian horror at its best”: Don Webb reviews Richard Gavin’s ‘At Fear’s Altar’

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What tangled web of eldritch synchronicities is this!?

  • In 2006 I reviewed Richard Gavin’s strong first collection of supernatural/numinous horror fiction, Omens, for the journal Dead Reckonings.
  • In the years after that, Richard and I forged a good online friendship. In 2011 he and I, and also our fellow horror scribe Simon Strantzas, roomed together in Tempe, Arizona as we attended, participated in, and spoke at MythosCon.
  • Also leading up to 2011, I developed an online friendship with Texas horror scribe, Setian priest, occult philosopher, and writing teacher Don Webb. At the 2011 World Horror Convention, I chaired a panel about religion. Don was one of the panelists.
  • In 2012 I became a columnist for Nam3less magazine. In 2012 Richard became a columnist here at The Teeming Brain. This past March, Richard used his column space to publish a fascinating interview with none other than Don: “Art, Mystery, and Magic: A Fireside Chat with Don Webb.”
  • Now in 2013, Don has become a book reviewer for Nam3less magazine. And what does he go and do with this platform? He goes and publishes an outstanding review of Richard’s latest book, At Fear’s Altar!

Okay, okay, so maybe I’m reaching too hard for a sense of darkly numinous mystery and daimonic intrigue here. Or maybe, you know, not. After all, each of us and all of together are inspired and guided by obscure forces. Who says they couldn’t work through all of this recounted randomness and triviality to bring about obscurely meaningful-seeming configurations of circumstance and personal interconnection, purely for their own inscrutable amusement?

In any event, while you ruminate on the matter (or perhaps while it ruminates on you), why not go and read Don’s review? Then buy Richard’s book. You won’t be sorry, for reasons Don ably expounds.

Richard Gavin is probably the best horror writer in Canada. . . . Gavin is a well-known member of the Lovecraftian school — particularly the branch of Ramsey Campbell and Thomas Ligotti. His latest collection, At Fear’s Altar, will serve to further his reputation.

. . . The last story in the collection, the novella, “The Eldritch Faith,” is a tour de force telling of a young man coming of age (and driven by a taste for darkness and sexual need) and inventing his own bizarre rituals that take him into stranger and stranger (and darker and darker) worlds. We see him as a haunted child, a troubled adolescent, and a young man-thing, and finally a monster not entirely of our dimension. The first person narrative deals with fears, sexuality, and primal otherness in a vein similar to Machen’s “The White People.” In many ways, this is Lovecraftian horror at its best — with effects achieved through emotional details and sensory images rather than lists of books or beings with outlandish names.

COMPLETE REVIEW: “At Fear’s Altar by Richard Gavin

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on July 16, 2013, in Arts & Entertainment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. AT FEAR’S ALTAR is one of the finest collections of weird fiction that I have ever read. Many thanks for bringing it to the attention of your readers.

  2. Thank you in turn for reinforcing the point, Wilum.

  3. I have bought it along with Thomas Ligotti’s “Conspiracy Against The Human Race” . I read through part of At Fear’s Altar and really liked the beginning frame story with the candles and telling of horror stories in Japan. I also really liked the portrayal of the old man in Chapel In The Reeds. One criticism I have is that I didn’t think some of the grotesque elements fit well with the sympathetic elements I thought they clashed a bit too much. I also have Matt Cardin’s Dark Awakenings. The story about the quantum drawing in a student’s notebook was really spooky.

  4. Eldritch synchronicities indeed, Matt! Thank you for posting this. I look forward to the ever-stranger cycles that undoubtedly lie in wait for us…

    Best,
    Richard

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