Friday, June 10, 2011

FFB: The Coming of Jonathan Smith - Harry Ludlam

Here is another horror novel that uses a detective story plot as its framework. A rash of suicides and accidental deaths on the outskirts of a small English village leads to the discovery of a curse laid down by a woman executed for witchcraft in the 17th century. Allan Tarrant and his cousin Susan (whose sister was one of the curse victims) team up with the local vicar to root out the evil presence that is the cause of the deaths. An eccentric Egyptologist and his sister who live in a decaying Gothic mansion crammed full of cast mummies are at the heart of the mystery.

Very well done, truly spine-tingling in parts, with quite a few original spins on some recognizable horror and occult fiction tropes. At key points it reminded me of John Carpenter’s The Fog and old Hammer horror movies about mummies. The combination of English witchcraft and Egyptian burial secrets is probably the most striking part of the book.

Apparently the author, who wrote a somewhat noteworthy biography of Bram Stoker (A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker), discovered the story of the cursed village while doing research for his book on Stoker. Amazing that this book has languished in obscurity since the 1960s. Originally published in 1964 in the UK, it was reissued in paperback one year later, again only in the UK. After being out of print for over 40 years, it is now available in a new affordable trade paperback edition from Ash-Tree Press.


  1. That's one of the many good things Ash-Tree is good for. I assume you read the magazine? (Note to Barbara and Chris--more issues, please.)

  2. Whatever it was it made her face go blurry. Sounds good though.

  3. EGAD! It's the sinister visage melting fog! (Not really. Just a really bad scan that didn't retain its sharp resolution when subjected to Bloggerizing.)