Saturday, 22 January 2011

5: Pigeons From Hell

Despite being cursed with one of the worst titles in weird fiction Pigeons From Hell succeeds in being amongst the most eerie and evocative haunted house stories you will ever read. Written by Howard in late 1934 and published postumously in Weird Tales in 1938 the story has many of the stock tropes of the type – strangers lost in a weird deserted landscape, a delapidated and eerie house, bloody murder at the hands of a spectral presence but casts these traditonal elements against a backdrop of sinister local colour that raises what could have been merely another pulp horror story to the level of a genre masterpiece.
Both sides of Howard’s family had roots throughout the south, with various ancestors owning plantations and fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War and Pigeons From Hell captures this mood of lost splendour and forgotten brutality beautifully; the decaying plantation mansion of the sadistic slave-owning Blassenville’s harbouring the dark secrets of sexual sadism, black magic and zuvembies. If one can park the reservations around the pulpy title and sink into the stiffling atmosphere Pigeons From Hell is as good a piece of Southern Gothic as you will find.

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