HALL THOMPSON: LOST OPPORTUNITIES
Derleth's choices in the 1940s have come under criticism
in recent years. Was he the man who saved Lovecraft?
Or was he a petty dictator who ruined Lovecraft's legacy?
It often depends who you ask.
for instance the work of Weird Tales writer,
C. Hall Thompson. He wrote two Cthulhu Mythos pieces:
"The Spawn of the Green Abyss" (Weird Tales,
November 1946) and "The Will of Claude Ashur"
(Weird Tales, July 1947) as well as two other
classic horror tales for that magazine. Why did he stop
writing Mythos after July 1947? According to Robert
Weinberg, Derleth "put a stop to the use of Lovecraft
properties by C. Hall Thompson . . ." (from
a letter from Derleth to Robert Weinberg, dated November
Derleth afraid of losing the Lovecraft intellectual
property? The fact that Lovecraft had shared out the
use of his weird cosmology must have caused Derleth
some legal frustration. Could he stop old timers like
Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch
or Henry Kuttner from using it? If you look at the authors
of the 1940s Arkham House books you will find many of
these names. With the carrot of your own hard cover
book, who wouldn't play alone with old Augie? C. Hall
Thompson was not one of these Weird Tales superstars.
He was, in fact, a writer of Westerns.
how good were the Thompson stories?
Spawn of the Green Abyss" follows a brain surgeon
named Arkwright who comes to Kalesmouth for rest. The
locals tell him to stay away from Heath House out on
a peninsula of land. Despite the warnings, the lovely
Cassanda Heath comes to the doctor when her father Lazarus
falls ill. Arkwright falls for Cassie and doctors Lazarus,
who suffers from scaly skin and a seeming madness. The
night Lazarus dies mysteriously on the beach is the
night the doctor proposes to Cassie. The two flee to
the city but three months later Heath House calls Cassandra
back. Slowly Arkwright watches the sickness of the place
change his wife. She locks up her father's library and
hides the key, demanding that her nobody ever enter
the room again. After days of misery, including the
discovery that Cassandra is pregnant, Arkwright steals
the key and examines the library. He finds Lazarus Heath's
diary, which contains the story of how his ship the
Macedonia was wrecked by sirens in the fog. He is the
only survivor on the slime-covered island, though he
too is drawn into the ocean by the siren call. He does
not die but changes, growing gills, and encounters great
evil in the green abyss. Later he is rescued, along
with a mysterious girl child. The diary reveals that
Cassandra is the child of Lazarus and the sea creature
known as Zoth Syra, the original Greek Syren. When the
great old one Yoth Kala, the father of her unborn child,
calls Cassandra to the sea, Arkwright is faced with
a terrible task, to shoot her dead. Unlike the tale
that follows, Thompson uses many Lovecraftian adjectives
in this tale but drops them in the next.
Will of Claude Ashur" follows two brothers living
at Inneswich Priory. Richard, the older must deal with
his younger brother, Claude, who from the start brings
misery with the death of his mother. Claude grows up,
taking his revenge on all who get in his way, including
his father, studying magic at Miskatonic University.
After studying voodoo for years, a sickly Claude returns
home with a bride, the beautiful Gratia Thane. It is
Claude's plan to place his soul in her body. Richard
falls for Gratia and has Claude declared insane and
placed in an asylum, but this can't stop Claude from
his revenge. Thompson builds this all slowly, with just
the right references to the Mythos, for a tale that
shows more characterization than even Lovecraft's work.
It is an example of how future good Mythos tales will
be written. Compared with the work that Derleth produced
at this time, Thompson's tales are by far the better
is hard to say what exactly was Derleth's thought processes.
He would have to slog through many dreary "posthumous
collaborations" for Weird Tales in the years
to come, trying to keep HPL's flame alive. Why hadn't
he simply hired Thompson to do it? Certainly he wasn't
appalled at Thompson's work, which is some of the best
of the post-1930s Mythos. Was Derleth trying to keep
the Mythos for himself? For the next three decades,
Derleth would collect and publish many of the best of
the Pulp horror writers, but the only all-Mythos volumes
would be by Lovecraft, himself or both together.
for "The Will of Claude Asher" by Lee Brown
1964, when Derleth published The Inhabitant of the
Lake and Less Welcome Tenants by Ramsey Campbell.
Derleth's protege from England was the first new Mythos
writer to break the embargo. Up to this time Derleth
had published an authorized tale in one of his anthologies
but these were few and singular. This was followed in
1969 by Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, featuring the old
guard writers along with some new ones like Ramsey Campbell,
Colin Wilson and Brian Lumley. After Derelth's death
in 1971 the company published many new all-Mythos books
including Beneath the Moors (1974) by Brian Lumley and
The House of the Worm (1975) by Gary Myers. The
Cthulhu Mythos was established. It no longer was necessary
to keep it under lock and key.
we will never read the other stories C. Hall Thompson
might have penned.
by Boris Dolgov