In 1890, one of the greatest horror writers of the next century was born. H.P. Lovecraft began his weird, dark fantasy writings in the early 20th century, which continued up until his life’s end in 1937. He published in small ‘pulp’ magazines, and only really achieved fame posthumously. His stories of ancient Elder beings have daunted the American populace for almost 100 years. Recently, however, numerous copyrights regarding Lovecraft’s work have expired, sparking a growing fan base, which includes new fictions based off his insane, twisted mythos. One such inspired fictions is the most recent novel from local author Douglas Wynne, Black January. Released on October 26th, the book uses certain references to Lovecraft’s works; names, themes, locations and such, but uses an entirely new writing style to tell stories within the Cthulhu Mythos. An avid musician, Wynne uses his knowledge of music and photography to create a personal, modern addition for Lovecraft’s ever expanding universe.
Black January is the second book in The SPECTRA Files trilogy, the first of which, Red Equinox, was published in early 2015. Set in 2019, Red Equinox followed Becca Phillips, an urban photographer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, who witnesses the apparent apocalypse caused by radicals of the Starry Wisdom Church, an estranged cult who worship cosmical beings known as the Elder Gods. Boston becomes a hub of dimensional breaches and mass hysteria as the creatures are conjured from their alternate plane into ours, and Becca is right in the middle of it. With Becca’s help, the secret government agency SPECTRA dispels the creatures and returns Boston to its normal, busy self. Set two years later, Black January returns to Becca living in Brazil, when she is once again called by SPECTRA to investigate a dilapidated old mansion on the outskirts of Boston. Of course, it is the middle of January, which means Becca is already on the verge of depression, and the appearance of black, ashy snow doesn’t help her mood. The snow appears to be congregating around the Wade House, the old home of estranged, witchy candle-maker Caleb Wade. Becca is once again flung into the depths of ancient, cosmic horrors threatening to permeate the thin veil between dimensions. Which does wonders for her psyche.
On October 28th, Water Street Bookstore in downtown Exeter held a book reading event for Black January, with black snow cupcakes and, of course, excellent literature. After reading a section of his new novel, Wynne explained to the audience his mindset of writing Lovecraft and writing in general. He revealed his influences and ideas about how writers of fiction should approach a story, how planning comes into effect in a plot, and how character development is not unlike having schizophrenia. He gave insight into how the character of Becca has her own attitude, and that writing her story was constantly accompanied by the question, ‘What would Becca actually do?’
It is not necessary to read Red Equinox before Black January, for Wynne very craftily weaves the key points of the previous novel into this story. Nonetheless, for those who are interested in Lovecraft, but unsure of where to start, Douglas Wynne’s books are an excellent place to begin. Equally, if you are a diehard Eldritch fan looking for some new material, the subtle hints and excellent writing styles of this series will be more than enough to quench your cosmological thirst. Wynne’s other books include The Devil of Echo Lake and Steel Breeze, neither of which are Lovecraftian, but still worth a read. He has also produced and recorded his own music.