Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(only because calling it Horror in place of Fantasy would be a doubling of Pulp which is its own interpretation of middle-class Horror)
I chose to read this out of my stream of Charles Willeford (actually, I was reading "Pick-Up" at the same time) because of another book (how could it be otherwise?) by Don Herron, "The Dashiell Hammett Tour." Within those pages Don Herron offered a writer he and his group ran into on the streets of The City, Charles Willeford. The purchase of Don's book has lead me to wonders of writers who inhabited San Francisco. Don also introduced me to Fritz Leiber, who added many references of Hammett to his novel, "Our Lady...."
Already knowing how Leiber lived in a rent controlled ("Rhodes" historically Rhodema now Union) hotel in the Tenderloin (and which was merely several blocks from my girlfriend's apartment up Nob Hill), it gave me immediate identification.
However, to return to "Our Lady...."
This story is atmospheric and full of the lore of Megapolisomancy. The hero owns an original journal of a man who studied paramental life-forces that defied time and space; and destructive-forces of the city's megalithic monuments. This book, familiar to an expert who wouldn't touch it for his life, contains both the question and the answer to the journal writer's death.
"Our Lady" is invested with the (author's autobiographical) hero's mood of recovering from the alcoholism following the death of his wife years before. Even then, it is neither morose, nor depressive. Instead, the hero is surrounded with comforting and supportive friends who rescue him from the paramental's highly disturbing embrace.
Of interest, and possibly fascination, is the hero's rumination on the many authors and their titles in the field of fantasy and horror genres that were current in the early 1970s.:
Nostig’s "The Subliminal Occult,"
“The Haunter of the Dark,”
Collected Ghost Stories of Montague Rhodes,
“The City of the Singing Flame,”
"Ames et Fantômes de Douleur,"
"Knochenmädchen in Pelze (mit Peitsche),"
"Suspiria de Profundis,"
"The Spider Glyph in Time,"
"Sex, Death and Supernatural Dread,"
“The Thing on the Doorstep,"
“The Disinterment of Venus,”
...and many others.
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