Saturday, December 2, 2017

Book Review: Under the Shanghai Tunnels and Other Weird Tales by Lee Widener

Under the Shanghai Tunnels and Other Weird Tales by Lee Widener

Paperback, 188 pages

Published by Strange House Books October 2017

Coming from Portland based bizarro and weird fiction author Lee Widener Under the Shanghai Tunnels is a neat little collection. It was not entirely my thing but I certainly respect the the book. The author is clearly heavily influenced by the works and mythos of HP Lovecraft. I should not have to explain who that is to horror readers. Certainly there is a seriously overwhelming amount of fiction released each year by writers who want to play in Howie's sandbox. There are two styles of Lovecraftian fiction the ones that directly try to write in his style and the ones who write in their own voice using the mythos.

I grew-up on Lovecraft like alot of horror fans and writers. I am not against Mythos writing in fact one of my favorite reads of the year is Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan. I admit I get a little tired of Lovecraft tropes and this book is 100% Lovecraftian. Lee Widener brings a off beat sense of humor that provides a cool counter balance to the atmospheric moments. Those of you who can't get enough of old school Weird Tales should not miss this book.

The title story is my second favorite of the collection. As someone who lived in Portland for several years I enjoyed how Widener was able to weave in this location and local lore into the mythos. The story was told in third person at time and slipped into a first person narrative that was a journal entry. This journal style was where we got the Lovecraft tone and almost his voice. There is no new ground really broken here but I don't suspect most readers of this style of fiction are looking for that. The title story feels like slipping on a favorite familiar sweatshirt.

My favorite story in the collection was a funny and very weird tale of a Shoemaker called "At the Shoe Shop of Madness." This kinda off beat humor is Widener does best. This is a really cool book for Lovecraftian fiction fans, and it is clearly written by a talented author. I know I would like to read his work that is not in the shadow of Lovecraft.

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