This week’s piece of weird fiction was first published The Disciples of Cthulhu from 1976, a time long before “Cthulhu” and “Lovecraft” got slapped on so many book covers.
Review: “The Feaster From Afar”, Joseph Payne Brennan, 1976.
Our protagonist is Sydney Mellor Madison, a writer of historical novels. He works in two year cycles: six months of research, a year of writing, and then six months of copy editing and promotion.
He’s become successful and decides he’d like to write his next book in someplace isolated away from the duties that distract him when he tries to work in his apartment.
He’s offered a lease on an unused hunting lodge in “northern New England”. So, he goes to check it out before signing.
He gets to the village of Granbury and meets the local storekeeper the lodge is twelve miles up a very bad road. It’s a road through a “bleak, uninhabited, and altogether inhospitable” land.
The first night there, Madison doesn’t sleep well. But he gets up, eats breakfasts, and sits down to write. The hunting lodge decorations and furniture may not be to his taste. But he’s a pro. He doesn’t wait until he’s in the mood to write. Do that, and you’ll end up a book reviewer.
But, after three hours, he stops, decides to check the mail, finds there is no mailbox, so drives back to Granbury. There he talks to Saines, the storekeeper, who tells him he has to pick up his mail at the store. Saines asks Madison if he’s a hunter. When the reply is in the negative, Saines is a bit taken aback as to why he would stay at the lodge then. A local character, sitting in the corner, ominously says, “Mebbe yew don’t hunt, mister, but just be sure yew ain’t the hunted.”
Annoyed at this “cracker-barrel” philosophy, Maidson leaves and decides he’s only going to pick up his mail once a week. Royalty checks can wait.
Back at the lodge, he has a few drinks to wash away his annoyance.
The next morning he’s still not in the best of moods – more bad dreams — so grabs one of the many shotguns in the lodge and takes a walk. The area around the lodge is remarkably silent and free of any sign of animals. It’s “barren and bleak” and feels wrong.
It’s more bad dreams that night. The place is getting on his nerves, so he goes back to Granbury and talks to Saines.
“Did anything – ever happen – up there? I mean, anything real bad?” he asks Saines.
Well, there was that hunter found dead up there awhile back. He had a bunch of holes in his head and no brain.
Madison is incredulous about this. Why wasn’t it in the papers?
Not everythin’ gits in the papers, Mr. Madison. And sometimes investigations that turns — complercated – gits hushed up!
Madison should just leave the lodge. Something bad is up there.
“Anyway, the Whateleys drew suthin’ down out of the sky there – and it ain’t niver left…”, says Saines.
Besides, Madison being a writin’ fellow he’s surprised he’s never heard of the “Cthulhu Mythos”
That does not impress Madison. He’s heard of some “pulp-magazine scribbler” – “Lovelock or Lovecrop – or something like that.”
Back to the lodge, Madison is still on edge and distracts himself by looking through the lodge’s library.
Out of one book falls a note that Hastur, the Feaster from Afar, has put his mark on the area. The reader of the note should just leave.
Madison thinks he’s the victim of a practical joke. The note could be forged – though how would a prankster know which book he would pick up? None of the other books have such notes.
And then the story reaches it’s expected conclusion.
We then hear about that dream Madison has had every night, a dream of pursuit in the country under moonlight pursued by a flying figure with talons. It’s no dream this time, though.
And Hastur, the Feaster from Afar sucks Madison’s brains out.
So, a predictable if enjoyable story with the main points of interest being the disparagement of H. P. Lovecraft and his story “The Dunwich Horror“.