Who Stole the Necronomicon?

My look at Craft’s Arkham Detective series concludes.

Cover by Marko Serafimovic

Review: Who Stole the Necronomicon?, Byron Craft, 2020. 

Yes, it’s another story where Miskatonic University has failed yet again to keep the blasphemous Necronomicon under lock and key.

Even the Arkham Detective (and, no, he doesn’t get a name in this novel either) got called in as a policeman when that freak Wilbur Whately tried to steal it as chronicled by H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”.

This time around the Detective isn’t professionally obligated to get involved. He’s a private eye now, but he agrees to look into the theft of the book and murder of a janitor as a favor to Detective Bell, the man who took his place as head of the Arkham Police Department’s Mythos Division.

There’s been plenty of changes in the Detective’s life in the three months since the events of Death on the Arkham Express. His family has grown again, so he needs a bigger house.

Continue reading

William F. Nolan’s Logan

This summer’s reading in preparation for Arcana was William F. Nolan’s Logan Trilogy. It was decidedly less time consuming than previous Arcana reading of Ambrose Bierce and Kathe Koja.

Logan’s Run and I go way back to 1977 when the Logan’s Run series was on tv. The young MarzAat was particularly impressed by the “Man Out of Time” which I see was written by Nolan and David Gerrold. However, it wasn’t that many years later I noticed its basic resemblance to T. L. Sherred’s “E for Effort” from 1948.

There is even a link to this blog’s name and Logan’s Run. The details would be boring to you and embarrassing to me.

However, it wasn’t until sometime in the 1980s I actually saw the movie and read Logan’s Run.

After we watched 1998’s Free Enterprise with its soon-to-be-30-years old hero dreaming of Logan, my wife told me the movie had a lot of fans.

I had no idea.

Low Res Scan: William F. Nolan’s Logan: A Trilogy, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, 1986.William F. Nolan's Logan

‘Cause I understand you’ve been running from the man

That goes by the name of the Sandman

— “Sandman”, America


It’s sex and drugs and a long party in the year 2072.

Sure, people still need jobs for a few hours a week. There’s those juvie punk scum hanging out in the Cathedral of Los Angeles. The occasional adult miscreant gets a trip on the Hellcar to an Arctic prison.

It’s kind of a short life though ’cause, when the crystal “flower” in your palm starts flashing, it’s Lastday, and you’d better shuffle off to the Re-Live center to replay the greatest hits of your life before heading off to the Sleepshop.

Of course, there’s always a few people who don’t play by the rules and try to make a run for life beyond 21. It’s the dedicated gunslingers of Deep Sleep, the Sandmen, who take care of that problem.

When the details fade from Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s Logan’s Run fade, you remember the frenetic pace and the impressionistic prose.

Just after you read Nolan and Johnson’s two page dedication to various authors, books, radio shows, comics, and movies, you know you’re in for something different.

This omnibus is only 384 pages long, so there’s no lallygagging. These novels are peak prose delivery systems.

Sandman Logan starts out his day listening to some citizen nattering on his Lastday about how it all seemed to go rather quickly. But, but, he’s no runner scum!

Then, after he spends some unrewarding time in the hallucimill and stagroom, Logan’s off to waste one of those scums.

He’s been wondering when his lastday is and then finds out it’s today!

So, using some clues from the man he killed, Logan impulsively decides to look for the legendary Sanctuary for runners created by a man named Ballard.

And then we go on a careening narrative, enabled by a vast underground transportation network, that stays in North America. There’s the underwater city ruled by an AI, a crazy cyborg artist who has some lethal modeling sessions in mind for Logan and Jessica, the babe and fellow runner he picks up and bonds with via terror sex.

There’s a pass through a re-creation of the American Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg with robots.

And, warming my heart, three scenes set in South Dakota: a crèche outside of Rapid City, a vast computer system under the Crazy Horse Monument, and the ruins of Deadwood where, to escape the clutches of futuristic biker gang, Logan has to manfully — if painfully — pleasure six biker sluts and carve some flesh from Jessica.

Surely, the highest South Dakota content of any science fiction novel I’ve read! Maybe that’s because Nolan’s a Midwesterner from Kansas City.

That may account for making the teenager who started this whole don’t trust kill-anyone-over-21 business from Charleston, Missouri.

Throughout all this, Logan’s colleague and sort of friend, Francis, is in hot pursuit. And Logan knows Francis is smarter and tougher than he is.

Nolan, in this edition, puts in some of his own illustration for the novels.

He also has a long introduction detailing the genesis of his cultural hero, the man who runs from an authoritarian system. It started as an aside when he taught a class in science fiction at UCLA in 1963, and, from the beginning, 1967’s Logan’s Run was intended for the screen. Johnson assisted in writing the novel because selling a script based on an already existing novel was deemed easier.

Nolan talks about the life of his creation and its surprisingly varied spin offs as of 1986. (You can get a sense of that from the United Sandmen page.)

And Now I’ll Spoil the Rest of the Trilogy

You’d expect Logan’s World (1977) to be one of two things.

The brave runners who made it to Sanctuary, actually an abandoned space station off Mars, will return and liberate the people’s from Earth


The inhabitants of Argos station will create a new order in space.

Nolan does neither nor does he hit the reset button.

Logan returns to Earth six years after the events of Logan’s Run because the Sanctuary dream is dead. Ballard was unable to keep the supply ships coming and the colony died except for Logan, Jessica, and their son Jaq who return to Earth in a ship.

But, if Sanctuary is dead, so is the old order, brought down by Ballard in an heroic and suicidal act.

The creature comforts of the old days are gone. Society has collapsed, and ex-Sandmen run petty kingdoms and gangs.

This is a dark and nasty story in a dark and nasty world. Jaq is killed. Jessica is taken as a sex slave by one scavenger gang, the Borgia Riders.

Logan puts on the old Sandman uniform and straps on his Gun (and it’s always called the Gun because it has all sorts of interesting bullets and capabilities) to get Jessica back.

Logan can be pretty ruthless and vicious in the quest for his babe. This quest will again take him to South Dakota where ex-Sandman Gant has taken up in the ruins of the destroyed computer, the Thinker, that organized the old world.

Flashbacks to the youth of Logan 3, a bid of odd typography, and Logan showing his charisma when leading resistance to Gant’s plan get the Thinker running again follow

The novel ends with Gant dead and the Crazy Horse Monument trashed. Logan and Jessica will lead the Wilderness People in the Black Dakotas in creating a new order.

So you would expect Logan’s Search (1980) to describe the adventure in creating that new order.

Except it goes into a completely different and odd direction.

Oh, it starts out with the Wilderness People in Old Washington (presumably Washington D.C.). Jessica is pregnant again and another group of survivors offer to trade food for medical supplies left in Old Chicago.

Logan goes off to take a look.

And gets captured by aliens.

And they decide to send him to an alternate Earth where the “computerized death system” has stabilized due to some “dark force”. Our Logan is to go to that world, impersonate its Logan, and destroy that system.

And he’s got 14 days to do it or be trapped on that alternate Earth.

We got a little globe hopping in Logan’s World with flashbacks to young Logan, but we get a lot in the third novel: Africa, Moscow, Monte Carlo, Jamaica, and

Egypt where this world’s Francis and Logan are to be made gods — though there is a little trouble after Logan foolishly looks up this world’s Jessica and gets accused of dealing drugs. (In the first world, tobacco was on the forbidden list.)

And, of course, Logan trashes another world order.

And those aliens are kind of voyeuristic cenobites.

These books are fun and a very quick read. How many trilogies today can you casually burn through in five days?


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.


Breaking News! There’s another Logan story as of this year, “Logan’s Mission”. I suspect I may find it in the dealer’s room at Arcana.


Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol.2

This one got read as something of a fool’s errand to see if I could learn anything about Kathe Koja’s ideas about what constituted “weird fiction”.

Well, “the weird” means different things to different people. That’s the whole idea behind getting a guest editor for each volume of this series, now in its third installment.

Is it the best weird fiction of the year? How would I know? And if I did, there really wouldn’t be much point in me reading this.

Series editor Michael Kelly read about 2,800 stories and passed the best to Koja for the final decision on whether or not to include them.

Koja’s ideas of weird fiction and mine don’t match much. On the other hand, I have no idea what she had to work with for 2014.

Still, the book had enough good stories in it for me to recommend, and I will read other volumes in the series.

However, I read it almost four months ago, and I’m only covering the stories that stuck in my mind, weird or not. That’s why this is a . . .

Low Res Scan: Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 2, eds. Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly, 2015.years-best-weird-2

For me, the only weird story in the book was its oldest: Jean Muno’s “The Ghoul”. First published in 1979, it got its first English translation, from Edward Gauvin, in 2014. Beautiful in imagery, it has a man walking a foggy beach. He encounters a woman in a submerged wheelchair. The mixing of time, a jump back to 20 years earlier in the man’s life, and language that may be realistic, may be metaphorical, was beautiful and memorable.

Nathan Ballingrud’s “The Atlas of Hell” is an occult take on a hard-bitten crime story. Narrator Jack runs a bookstore in New Orleans (with the really good and profitable stuff in back). Jack’s old employer, crime boss Eugene, coerces him into another job. Jack’s to take a thug with him and find Tobias who has not only ripped off some gambling proceeds but somehow gotten, from Hell no less, the thighbone of Eugene’s dead son. It’s off to the bayou and some weird stuff, and that atlas turns out to be something unexpected.

Siobhan Caroll’s “Wendigo Nights” has a setup similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing: a canister (from the doomed Franklin Expedition, no less – Caroll has done academic work on polar exploration) is retrieved from the thawing tundra. Mayhem ensues involving the wendigo – monster or really bad cabin fever that turns men into cannibal killers depending on whether you go with folklore or psychology. Continue reading

X’s for Eyes & The Golden Man

This is the unveiling of a new feature: the Low-Res Scan.

As should be obvious, these are not reviews, not even notes, just brief commentary

Low Res Scan: X’s for Eyes, Laird Barron, 2015 and The Golden Man, Kenneth Robeson, 1941.

X’s for Eyes will be the eighth Laird Barron work I’ve read, and I’m still not in the Laird Barron fan club.Xs for Eyes

This short novel is published by Bizarro Pulp Press. Truth in advertising. This is bizarre, but not in a memorable way. I reviewed its first half which appeared as “We Smoke the Northern Lights” in The Gods of H. P. Lovecraft.

It’s been over two months since I read it, and the second half has faded from memory. I remember Spetsnaz mercs, a butler who was a Nazi commando, some transdismensional travel, and not much else. Fun while I read it, even brought a smile to my face, but memorable only in incident like a lot of pulp.

One annoying bit: a character pulls a Glock pistol out. Only in an alternate 1956 does that get to happen.

One character, killed off early, can be driven to rage by telling him “You’re no Doc Savage!” More evidence of the pulp inspirations for this tale.

And, speaking of Doc Savage, I came across this interesting bit at the end of The Golden Man, published in the April 1941 issue of Doc Savage Magazine:

The golden man lay still, breathing deeply. “My name,” he said, “is Paul Hest. I am chief of intelligence for” — he looked up slyly — let’s call it an unnamed nation, not the United States. We learned that an American liner, the Virginia Dare, bringing refugees from Europe, was to be torpedoed. The torpedoing was to be done by the U-boat of another nation, disguised as a submarine belonging to my country. The idea was to build up ill feeling in the United States against my country.”The Golden Man

A false flag operation conducted by Britain and an American liner provocatively named for the first English child born in the New World. Clearly, Lester Dent, the usual author behind the house name Kenneth Robeson, was sticking to non-intervention even in 1941.