At Fear’s Altar
By Richard Gavin
$20.00; Trade Paperback, 2012
Richard Gavin is probably the best horror writer in Canada, and his fictions show some Canadian concerns. A theme we can see in the work of Gemma Files, as well as David and Brandon Cronenberg is to take a character in a loving relationship and place them in some form of extreme metamorphosis and watch the interplay between love and horror, the familiar and the unknown. Gavin is a well-known member of the Lovecraftian school—particularly the branch of Ramsey Campbell and Thomas Ligotti. His latest collection, At Fear’s Altar, will serve to further his reputation.
This collection of thirteen tales, most of them excellent, is a welcome addition in the Lovecraftian genre, which sadly often has merely nostalgic rehashing of themes created by the master. Of the thirteen tales, the only weak entry is the opening tale “A Gate of Nerves” which attempts to collect the remaining tales in a meta-narrative, which is not addressed later in the book. However, the strong pieces in the collection are winners. “Chapel in the Reeds” combines the basic Lovecraftian theme of seeing what man was not meant to see and couples it with fears of old age and loss of competence. Gavin completes and extends the Lovecraftian world with his tale “Faint Baying from Afar” which is a follow-up tale to Lovecraft’s “The Hound.” His invocation of the horror and wonder of Satan in “A Pallid Devil, Bearing Cypress” is a wonderful tribute to Han Heinz Ewers, a macabre writer far too often overlooked in the English speaking world (HHE had the odd distinction of being one of the favorite horror writers of H. P. Lovecraft, Aleister Crowley and Adolph Hitler). “King Him” is a tale told by an unreliable narrator, who liv