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In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft Paperback – September 13, 2016
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"Must reading for both loyal Lovecraft fans and biography lovers." Booklist
"This work by Poole makes Lovecraft's story accessible to casual readers without forsaking the level of detail expected of a more scholarly work... this book entertains and surprises, as with Poole's decision to write in the first personhe's a wry and jovial narrator. He also takes pains to explore Lovecraft's influence upon art and popular culture... This interesting biography also provides new perspectives on the author's character that will incense the keepers of Lovecraft's mythos." Library Journal
H.P. Lovecraft is having one hell of a resurgence. Luckily, the author of the man's latest biography is the smart, shrewd, and insightful W. Scott Poole. In The Mountains of Madness gives a welcome accounting of Lovecraft's career but, importantly, urgently, Poole also offers a new outlook on the women in Lovecraft's life. His mother and wife, dismissed or vilified for so long, are cast as some of his most essential supporters. What a welcome new point of view this book offers about this issue and so many others. What a wonderful testament to the lasting power and influence of H.P. Lovecraft." Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom
"As Poe was to the 20th century, Lovecraft is to the 21st, and W. Scott Poole’s book is his Horrible Holiness's Gospels, his Revelations, and his Necronomicon, all in one, like some kind of twisted trinity guiding us deep into the mountains of madness." Grady Hendrix, author of My Best Friend’s Exorcism
[Praise for Vampira]
Finally, Poole lovingly gives Vampira her due.” Booklist (Starred)
Before there was Dr. Morgus, Svengoolie, and Elvira, there was the titular Vampira. This stone-cold winner belongs in every American studies collection.” Library Journal, Starred Review
"Scott Poole has the chops, the Hollywood savvy, and the horror genre's insider smarts to write a killer book on Vampira. I'll be first in line to grab a copy." Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of Assassin’s Code and Dust & Decay
Horror hostess, bondage goddess, Charles Addams cartoon come to life, Vampira was every first-generation fanboy's wet dream. Scott Poole takes us on an unforgettable ride through the overlapping underworlds of B+D magazines, Hollywood noir, and early political liberation movements that inspired actress Maila Nurmi to challenge a postwar culture bent on stifling women's, choices, bodies, and desires. This book is a subversive masterpiece.” Sheri Holman, author of Witches on the Road Tonight and The Dress Lodger
W. Scott Poole's last book, Monsters in America, was a dazzling work of cultural history: smart, funny, subversive and wildly entertaining. He showed a special gift for playfully saying serious things. His new book is even more wonderful. The life of Maila Nurmi, better known as the late-night TV hostess Vampira, is a great, strange story in itself, but also allows Poole to explore our attitudes about sex, death, fear, and difference. The Lady of Horror’ was famous in the 1950s, but she is a remarkable symbol who connects backward to Poe and forward to Goth. She is as American as the Statue of Liberty.” Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters and Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America
Vampira is up there with Vincent Price for lovers of the macabre, an icon whose shadow and influence lingers long after death. She's not only important to modern children of the night for being the first TV horror host, but as the original Glamour Ghoul,’ whose style has inspired generations of Goth Girls to adopt the sexy undead look as their own. But there is more to her story than her ability to look good screaming, and Scott Poole, whose writing on the dark side of popular culture has proven to be some of the smartest, sassiest com-mentary on American society around, is the man to tell it.” Liisa Ladouceur, author of Encyclopedia Gothica
An expert critic of pop culture, W. Scott Poole is one of the finest historians of all that is wicked, salacious, and sexy in America. By looking into the life and times of Maila Nurmi, the former stripper turned television’s dark goddess of sex and death, Poole unveils a new side of midcentury America, which we too often forget the steamy, scary, and sensational.” Edward J. Blum author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America
Vampira represents a way to talk about fifties culture, especially about its political and moral pressures. Scott Poole has shown how brilliantly he can unearth cultural fears and desires.” James R. Kincaid, author of Erotic Innocence
A fascinating journey through 1950s America this pioneering book is a tribute to the change that Vampira incited and the awakening that so many unknowingly received from her presence.” Pasatiempo
"W. Scott Poole has written a fascinating and illuminating socio-sexual history of the last half decade of American Pop Culture. W. Scott Poole explores deftly and accurately the history and the politics of both feminism and the outsider,” the parts of America pushed to the curb but yearning for acceptance, love, and financial success, the new and shiny” promise of the (supposed) post war era. Poole has done a great job in bringing such a variety of disparate pieces into a singular whole, and this book should be bought and read by anyone interested in the unspoken history of Hollywood, and the darker story of our culture." The Examiner
"Poole is as concerned with the larger social changes afoot in mid-century America and uses the Vampira narrative to approach the second half of the 20th century from a fresh, and new thought-provoking perspective...[Vampira] provides an interesting and singular window into a time in the nation's past that can hardly be over-examined, especially as so many of the battles described are still being fought and it can often seem as if some of the hard-won gains of the era are slowly being given up." Charleston City Paper
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To be honest, I'm not sure. Poole has obviously put a reasonable amount of work into this, consulting various collections of Lovecraft's letters and other materials held in various university libraries, but it's still by and large a stripped-down version of Joshi's mammoth biography, only without citing all of its sources so you can't trace back any particular fact or quote unless you know where to look in the first place (the endnotes are woefully inadequate); Poole actually includes an entire chapterette on his sources which, for all that it includes many excellent critical sources, also includes utter tripe like Roland and Steadman's H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism. Of the larger body of criticism on Lovecraft's life and work, Poole is notably ignorant - the two and half pages devoted to Lovecraft's sexuality would have benefited immeasurably if Poole had read Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos, for example.
Poole's greatest contribution seems to be a deliberate effort to place Lovecraft in the context of his own time, and to address some of the materials and individuals he inspired. This is generally entertaining, and helps provide a bit of color which a dry distillation of Lovecraft's previous biographies might be missing; it continues after Lovecraft's death to follow briefly the life of R. H. Barlow, to describe how Lovecraft fandom spread and grew, how the fake Necronomicons were published and flourished - unnecessary, in a strict sense, but far from useless and fairly accurate. Poole's worst additions are his personal analyses and opinions, most of which are presented without much support, such as the suggestion that Lovecraft's marriage ended in part because Lovecraft's aunts discovered she was Jewish. This is not a statement in any way justified by any surviving letter or anecdote; certainly Sonia Davis, the former Mrs. Lovecraft, never mentioned anything of the sort.
Is it bad? Yes. Certainly, it is better than Roland's, but that is damning with faint praise. Once again, I'm just struck as to wondering who the audience of this book is supposed to be - scholars and students would prefer Joshi's I AM PROVIDENCE, fans might prefer LORD OF A VISIBLE WORLD or VISIONARY IN RESIDENCE. The only people that would really buy this book are completionist collectors or those who don't know better - or, perhaps, just want a cheaper option than I AM PROVIDENCE. If you find yourself in the latter category...buy a used copy of Joshi over a new copy of Poole.
Lovecraft eventually attained cult status becoming the darling of graphic novelists, a number of great directors, and such prominent authors as Michel Houellebecq and Stephen King. He also attracted the attention of critics like Edmund Wilson, who hated his work and tried to destroy his reputation, and the Chelsea House critic S T Joshi, who has devoted a good part of his life to the promotion of Lovecraft's work, including his vast and wonderful correspondence. Today Lovecraft has achieved a degree of mainstream critical recognition, but a lot of his best work consists of ideas and sketches for things that were never fully realized by the master in his short career. Lovecraft's tales were just the beginning of an achievement that had to wait for other writers to bring to maturity, e g the Anne Rice of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, the Valis trilogy of Philip K Dick, and the early tales and novels of Stephen King. And perhaps this is the chief flaw, almost the only flaw, of Scott Poole's informal and discursive study of Lovecraft's life and work. Professor Poole sees more actualized achievement in the Lovecraft canon than is really there. Lovecraft, like John the Baptist, was a great inspirational catalyst and prophet. Jesus came after John and Rice and King came after Lovecraft.
This said, Dr Poole has written a wonderful and charming interpretative biography which, in some ways, is the best of the many studies of Lovecraft. There is some political bias which finds its way into the book, but that is not inappropriate in a study of Lovecraft who was, in many ways, a cesspool of religious and racial bigotry. He was a nativist and anti semite who married a Russian immigrant who also happened to be Jewish. He was a atheist who had inspired visions of beings that often seemed supernatural. Yes, Lovecraft was not afraid to be controversial and certainly not afraid to contradict himself. A real artist is controversial. A real artist contradicts himself (see what Walt Whitman has to say about that).
Dr Poole is more successful tban most of his fellow Lovecraftians at capturing the flux and flow of the Lovecraft universe. This study seems to be the real mccoy and I think it will become a modern classic of culture criticism.