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doctorcath

Bookivorous

I read books, I write about books, I would probably marry a book if I could find one who liked me enough. Three words to describe me mature, irresponsible, contradictory, unreliable...oh...that's four...

'The King in Yellow had opened his tattered mantle and there was only God to cry to now'

The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories - Robert W. Chambers, E.F. Bleiler

Ronald W Chambers is something of an oddity in the annals of writerdom. He made a comfortable living writing popular romance - a kind of Nicholas Sparks of the 1910s and 20s - yet all of those books are now forgotten and he's now chiefly remembered for a single novel, one he wrote early on in his career, one which compared to his other work, counts as something of a failure.

 

The King in Yellow,a collection of short stories, owes at least part of its enduring fame to the fact that Lovecraft was a huge fan and cited Chambers as an inspiration for his own work. What Lovecraft especially liked about the collection, was the way Chambers connected his stories with the invention of an evil text - a play called 'The King in Yellow' - a work of such profound corruption that all those who read it go insane. This is a device that Lovecraft liked so much that he pinched it - creating his own nefarious text, The Necronomicon - a book containing the secrets which allow you to summon the Old Ones (an action which never ends well for the summoner you won't be surprised to hear).

 

Naturally, Chambers never reveals more than a few select quotes from this infamous work and actually only a one of the stories in the collection use it as a central device, but The King in Yellow is worth reading for that single story alone. I won't name it, because 1) that would be cheating and 2) I liked many of the others too. Chambers' writing is elegant and witty and even when he's being twisted, he does so with charming, old fashioned flair. 

 

In that respect, Chambers is more like Poe than Lovecraft, a writer he's also often bracketed with or Ambrose Bierce. If you like the idea that kind of post-Victorian creepiness, this is definitely something for you.