I see that Richard A. Lupoff’s long novel Marblehead: A Novel of H.P. Lovecraft is now available as a budget £1.99 Kindle ebook from the Gateway imprint (Gollancz), where it is saddled with the initially puzzling Amazon title of Marblehead: Lovecraft Book 2.
Turns out this is Lupoff’s full 160,000-word version of his shorter novel Lovecraft’s Book, which Gateway is now calling Lovecraft’s Book: Lovecraft Book 1 in an Amazon ebook listing with a price-tag of £2.99. Hence the puzzling title for the second book.
But what is the actual relationship between Book 1 and Book 2? There’s a complex publication history. Originally this tale of Lovecraft-in-1927 was a 160,000-word doorstopper written in a year and destined for the large publisher Putnam, back in the days when short novels were the fashion. A total rewrite was then undertaken, at Putnam’s request, to shorten the book. On getting the far shorter re-write novel Putnam were still not happy, and so the re-write went to the post-Derleth Arkham House and was published in 1985. The original 160,000-word typescript was lost in the shuffle, until a carbon was found in a cellar in 2000. It was then republished in 2007 titled Marblehead: A Novel of H.P. Lovecraft. This appears to have seen a second edition in 2009. Possibly the latter was the paperback, to the earlier hardback?
It’s not stated which edition the current Marblehead ebook originates with, but I assume it’s the second edition. In my experience Gateway OCRs its shovelware from print, and as such I’d guess there may well be quite a few unfixed OCR errors.
The novel purports to cover Lovecraft’s life in 1927, and imagines him being hired as a ghost-writer by the (real) German propagandist and poet George Sylvester Viereck. Sounds good, but the review of Lovecraft’s Book by Darrell Schweitzer in Amazing Stories (Spring 1987) rather dampens my enthusiasm…
the Lovecraft character is no more convincing than the H.G. Wells of the movie Time After Time, a famous name and little more. There is even a scene in which Lovecraft gets drunk (during Prohibition, no less!) … The plot, involving the early Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, makes entirely too much of Lovecraft’s alleged racism. … Lupoff’s novel, while adequate as fiction, only distorts the memory of Lovecraft the man.
The central conceit then throws a curious new light on author Lupoff’s apparent real-life recall of a rooftop conversation with Frank Belknap Long, during which Long is said to have remarked that Viereck was once Lovecraft’s arch-enemy…
It took only the mention of Viereck’s name and Howard’s face would turn beet red, his neck would swell until you thought he was going to burst, and he would practically foam at the mouth!
Readers of Tentaclii will recall that I spotted this item a few weeks ago, while looking at Long’s John Carstairs series. Lupoff had written an introduction to a new collection of these pulp tales, and the Long anecdote was included there.
But surely if this reminiscence were correct, and not just invented to conveniently ‘fit’ with the subject matter of Lupoff’s old novel, we would have something else on Viereck from Lovecraft or Long or his correspondents? So far as I can tell we have nothing, and Viereck is not in the index of Joshi’s I Am Providence.
When exactly did this rooftop conversation with Long occur? It’s stated by Lupoff that it happened some 25 years after the “the early 1950s” publication of the British paperback for Long’s John Carstairs: Space Detective. This had been a boyhood favourite for Lupoff, but had since been lost. Yet that edition was actually published 1959, something the writer of the introduction to the current John Carstairs collection must have known, since he evidently re-acquired it — being able to remark on the text of the paperback in comparison to that of the hardback.
If the young Lupoff had originally sourced that paperback from England circa 1960 (transatlantic shipping took time in those days) then that would place the rooftop conversation with Long in circa 1985, the very year Arkham House issued Lovecraft’s Book. Why then should Lupoff make the mistake of placing the paperback’s publication back in the “early 1950s”? Well, it could fit a narrative he might have wished to imply or bolster — add the stated 25 years and you get to a rooftop interview with Long in circa the mid 1970s, just before Lupoff started writing Marblehead. It’s known that at this time Lupoff did interview many who had memories of Lovecraft, including Long. It’s thus being implied in the John Carstairs Introduction that Lupoff had the Viereck information from Long at that time, and that this nugget of actual fact was what started him researching and writing his novel about Viereck and Lovecraft. Yet the 1959 British publication date of John Carstairs rather belies this.