Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Hounds of Tindalos

The Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

For want of something to read last night before falling asleep, I browsed my bookshelves and chanced upon the collection The Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long. This slim book – less than 180 pages – originally appeared as an Arkham House edition in, I believe, 1946. My paperback version was published by Belmont in 1963. But sadly, I gather that this book does not include the same content as the Arkham House original.

Back to last night’s reading. I was pretty tired and so only read one of the tales, the title story. It’s clear from the start that this is a Mythos yarn – Long and Lovecraft were contemporaries.

Chalmers summons his friend Frank to witness and record a time travel experiment. Chalmers is convinced that time can be bypassed via the fourth dimension, using a mix of mathematical formulae and mind-enhancing drugs. Of course, Frank is sceptical of all this but agrees to write down everything that Chalmers describes as he travels back, far back to the very beginning. But things go wrong for Chalmers. He travels to an era of angular rather than curved time. And there are beings inhabiting that place, creatures that hound him back as he returns to the twentieth century.

Frank agrees to help Chalmers fortify his rooms, to eliminate all the corners, all the angles of his apartment. Yet later, the dismembered body of Chalmers is discovered, covered in a protoplasmic gloop. And, of course, his diary is discovered, which details his final days.

Despite this story being over 60 years old, I found the writing quite invigorating, and was swept along with the tale. And it had its bleak touches of humour, too. Chalmers wrote in his diary:
“They are breaking through! Smoke is pouring from the corners of the wall. Their tongues— ahhhh—”

I always had to smile at these passages; I read a lot of this when I was much younger. Still, that aside, this is a fine story of paranoia, and a warning against searching for the darkest secrets. Man’s hubris can get him into a lot of trouble.

Note: Back in 1997 I produced on behalf of the BFS a chapbook, Long Memories: Recollections of Frank Belknap Long by Peter Cannon. This is an affectionate reminiscence of Long by Peter Cannon; Ramsey Campbell provided the afterword – who also met Long before the latter’s death in 1994. I’m not sure if copies still remain. Contact the BFS stockholder via the BFS website.

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