Occult Detective Magazine issue # 0 (emagazine review)

Occult Detective Magazine’ is a small British publication that builds on a tradition founded by William Hope Hodgson’s ace supernatural detective Carnacki that is continued by many others. Generously, they are giving away a bumper free issue to lure new readers. Here’s what you get.

In ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ by Mike Carey, the City of Light is blessed with the Brooklyn Bridge, the Alhambra and an assortment of streets named Juarez Hill, Fifth and Taylor and the Unterdenlinden. It’s also just recovering from a plague of zombies and there’s a serial killer on the loose. Inspector Philemon is our narrator and the tale begins with the fourteenth murder. Sergeant Riordan of the Garda is investigating, aided by photographer Lutetia Lumière who has information. ‘She was still smiling but something hard and sharp glinted beneath it, like broken glass in a flowerbed.’ A beautifully written dark mystery with surprises along the way.

‘Carnacki: The Parliament Of Owls’ by William Meickle has Hodgson’s creation recruited by the eponymous birds but only because the Great Detective is unavailable. Rather insulting. Carnacki does his best to keep the Outer Darkness at bay in another good yarn.

Ivy Graingers is a psychic detective in the town of Harborsmouth and can see through any ‘glamour’ to the monster beneath. A handy talent ‘but having anthropomorphic snot treat you like you smelled worse than a troll fart could give a girl a complex.’ ‘Frostbite’ by E.J. Stevens is a haunted house story that’s both gruesome and touching.

You probably shouldn’t laugh at horror stories but there’s plenty to chuckle over in ‘Vinne De Soth And The Vampire Definition’ by I.A. Watson. Investigative journalist Annette Anson recruits Vinnie to save young Beyoncé Williams, who is being turned into a vampire willingly by her older boyfriend. Social Services are involved but Mrs. Blythely the social worker can’t help much. Vinnie warns Beyoncé’s boyfriend: ‘Being undead, it’s more than wearing leather coats and hair care product.’ Highly enjoyable.

Darker fare follows with ‘Shadows In The Rafters’ by Paul Finch, a Major Craddock mystery. Set in Wigan in the 1860s, this historical detective fiction accurately portrays life for workers at the time. Craddock is a splendid fellow trying his best in a hard world and the bad guys are vile. Here’s weird fiction with one foot solidly in reality and all the better for that. Well written and a nice reminder of what those oft lauded Victorian values really meant.

‘Mrs. Lilicrop’s Trip To The Highlands’ by Bev Allen features a haunted Scottish castle populated by various eccentric characters. Mrs. Lilicrop is powerful, faces no real opposition and works out what’s going on very easily so it’s not dramatic but it is amusing.

In ‘The Mere’ by Josh Reynolds, the Royal Occultist Charles St. Cyprian and his unusual apprentice, Ebe Gallowglass, investigate strange events in the Fenland cottage of Patrick Upney. The place was formerly owned by a painter, Calmet Martyn, who rose to fame suddenly and has since vanished. Reynolds creates a real atmosphere of dread and the magic was believable, too. As with so much here, there are more tales of St. Cyprian out there if you like this one and I did.

Mike Chinn has a series of ‘Damian Paladin’ adventures. The one featured here is ‘Good Evening, Princess.’ Leigh Oswin, a dame on the lam from dangerous men, seeks refuge in a deserted airport near New York City when a plane lands with Paladin and a strange cargo he’s trying to dump. The point of view switch from dame to Damian is odd in a short story but I don’t mind that. Hard-boiled occult detective stories work well.

So do Science Fiction occult detective stories. After all, if ghosts and demons existed and still exist, they will exist in the future. ‘The URLking’ by Jilly Paddock has Detective Inspector A. Afton Lamont working with tech to solve the mystery of a recluse who died at her computer. Solid yarn with an unexpected solution.

In ‘The Witch Of Pender’ by John Linwood Grant, conjure-woman Mamma Lucy cottons on to some trouble down at the Cooperson place in Pender County, North Carolina and heads that way by bus, sitting in the back, of course. Esme Cooperson took her on for three days work and ‘Mamma Lucy gave the sort of nod and shuffle that an old black woman in need of work and board might offer a white lady.’ Young Suzie Cooperson is pregnant and unwell. No one knows who the father is but a local black man is suspected and there might be a necktie party soon. Yorkshireman Grant gets that ol’ southern atmosphere just so. Joe R. Lansdale might have written this. Higher praise I cannot give.

There’s more of that ol’ black magic with ‘Dirt In The Blood’ by S.L. Edwards. Joe Bartred and his mother, Haley, investigate a murder down in the Bayou among Cajun people who don’t talk to strangers. Luckily, Haley comes from those parts. The chief suspect is Rougarou, a Cajun bogeyman whose a ‘swamp monster, werewolf and sasquatch all rolled into one’. Decent heroes, truly rotten villains and terrifying magic.

One thing that separates magazines from short story anthologies is the presence of reviews and articles. In that department, ‘Occult Detective Magazine’ does not disappoint. ‘The Case Of The Incomplete Ghost Hunter – Neils Orsen’ by G.W. Thomas is about Dennis Wheatley’s creation, Neils Orsen. Wheatley was famous for devilish books that were turned into Hammer horror movies, but his detective is mostly forgotten.

‘The Nightmare Files’ highlights the ‘Nick Nightmare’ series written by Adrian Cole. Nick has many adventures in Pulpland, where characters from fiction in our world really exist, rather like Heinlein’s conceit for ‘The Number Of The Beast’. Conversely, some real people in our world are fictional characters in theirs. It’s an interesting concept and the series looks like a lot of fun.

‘The Twin Roots Of Occult Detective Fiction’ by Tim Prasil is the introduction to his anthology ‘Ghostly Clients & Demonic Culprits: The Roots Of Occult Detective Fiction’. They go deep. Pliny the Younger had an occult detective story where a brave man investigated why a ghost could not rest in peace. Mostly the focus is on Victorian tales, though. Prasil collects lost tales into anthologies and also writes the Vera Van Slyke ghostly mysteries. Finally, there are several reviews of occult detective books by editor Dave Brzeski. I enjoy reading book reviews to learn how it should be done properly.

Occult Detective Magazine # 0 features several fine stories and worthy non-fiction, including the author’s biographies and details of their books. Indeed, one of the best things about the magazine is that it provides signposts to online sources with more information for those new to the genre. And it’s free! Well worth a look and should tempt you to buy the next issue of ‘Occult Detective Magazine’ or old ones which are still available.

Eamonn Murphy

July 2021

(pub: Cathaven Press, 2021. 195 A4 pdf pages, epub: 3.94mB, mobi: 6.68mB, pdf: 3.16mB. Price: FREE)

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