John Hornor Jacobs boasts a fun back story: He burst onto the horror scene at 40 years old with a book called Southern Gods, which began as a rough draft written during NanoWriMo and ended up on the nomination ballot for the horror genre’s esteemed Stoker award for Best First Novel (2011). It’s a helluva read, combining the Cthulhu mythos with a southern gothic style and sensibility. He followed up Southern Gods with the apocalyptic This Dark Earth, which a few horror veterans have called the best zombie novel of the new millennium. For the past five years, he’s been immersed in his Incorruptibles series—featuring The Incorruptibles, Foreign Devils, and Infernal Machines—which you might call a steampunk/western/horror/alternate-history mashup.
Now he’s back to Lovecraftian influences with A Lush and Seething Hell, which is actually a pair of horror novellas—both never-before-published in print—titled The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky (140pp) and My Heart Struck Sorrow (220pp). The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky is about a poet who befriends a woman. Expats embroiled in political unrest, their relationship becomes more intense, and finally he asks her to watch his apartment while he’s away. The woman finds something horrific in his left-behind manuscripts. This novella contains some pretty graphic torture scenes that many will find difficult, but there’s some beautiful writing here as the poet escapes the horrors in his mind. My Heart Struck Sorrow follows a librarian who’s given the assignment of digging through a philanthropist’s estate after his death—in particular, a collection of audio recordings and journals. The narrative then splits between the librarian’s immersion in his studies of the journals and flashbacks to the 1930s of two men traveling around America collection folk songs. And, oh, there’s something terrifying about one particular song.
Jacobs has a sometimes dense style, but he really conjures a Lovecraftian mood, as well as strong psychological suspense. A Lush and Seething Hell comes highly recommended as two separate journeys into darkness. Check it out!