Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lovecraft and Hubbard

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril
By Paul Malmont
Simon & Schuster, 361 pp., $24

Usually literary cameos make me grit my teeth (look—it’s Frank Lloyd Wright talking to Millard Fillmore!), to the extent that I now require round-the-clock dental care. But Malmont's breezy pulp pastiche, set in '30s New York, charmingly riffs off authorial personae and lets the era's imaginative fictioneers take center stage: H.P. Lovecraft, a pre-Scientology Ron Hubbard, Shadow author Walter Gibson, Doc Savage mastermind Lester Dent, and Chester Himes are all present and itching for adventure. Malmont plays fast and loose with the facts (Hubbard was not, alas, a pallbearer at Lovecraft's funeral), but biographical fidelity is trumped by the air-conditioning qualities of the book's rapid page flip quotient.

—First appeared, in slightly different form, in The Village Voice, June 6, 2006