Lovecraft’s long New York story “The Horror at Red Hook” was written at the start of August 1925. Although its quality is usually disparaged by Lovecraft scholars, noted critic Harold Bloom called the story: “one of his most delicious tales” (Twentieth-century American Literature, 1986). I tend to agree, and find something very interesting in how Lovecraft projects dual semi-autobiographical heroes in Malone and Suydam (yes, I consider Suydam a hero — but that’s for a proper essay).
But what of the stories and novels that came after it, also set in the notorious Red Hook? Here’s my quick survey of other stories set in Red Hook:—
1. Frank Palescandolo’s pulp novel Rumble on the Docks (1953) is set in Red Hook. The book must have risen above the average, since it was filmed in 1956.
2. The well-known film On The Waterfront (1954) was Elia Kazan’s study of gangster/union rule on the docks, and of the longshoreman (Marlon Brando) who fights back against corruption.
3. Arthur Miller’s play A View from the Bridge (1955/1956) was a domestic tragedy of love, violence, and illegal immigration, set in Red Hook. Apparently the script arose as an offshoot from On The Waterfront.
4. Hubert Selby’s notorious novel Last Exit to Brooklyn (1957) is a famously bleak collection of six linked stories set in the violent neighbourhoods of Red Hook/Brooklyn. It was filmed in 1990.
5. “Book One: The Gang” is the first half of the book Memos from Purgatory by Harlan Ellison, an autobiographical account in which the famous science fiction author recounts how in 1957 he joined one of the gangs in Red Hook for research purposes. It was later made into a TV movie for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1964).
6. Rick Dakan’s The Call of Cthulhu game book in the After Lovecraft series The Horror At Red Hook: The Cold Case of Robert Suydam brings back Lilith to Red Hook, along with bewitched little girls.
7. The collection The Lovecraft Papers (1996) by P. H. Cannon includes the novella “Pulptime: Being a singular adventure of Sherlock Holmes, H.P. Lovecraft, and the Kalem Club, as if narrated by Frank Belknap Long, Jr.”, originally issued as a separate book (Weirdbook Press, 1984). An ageing Sherlock Holmes recruits Lovecraft and the Kalem Klub to help solve a mystery in Red Hook in the 1920s.
8. Alan Moore’s The Courtyard (Avatar Press, 2003) was a two-issue comic book, containing a Lovecraftian tale set in the Red Hook of the present day. Which doesn’t mean that it’s any nicer as a neighbourhood. In the 1990s LIFE magazine labelled Red Hook one of the worst neighbourhoods in the USA, and… “the crack capital of America”. Avatar Press also published Alan Moore’s The Courtyard Companion (2004), which contains the original short story by Alan Moore, and an essay by Antony Johnson. The story had originally appeared in The Starry Wisdom: A Tribute to H.P. Lovecraft (Creation Books, 1995).
9. Alan Moore followed up The Courtyard with the more substantial Lovecraftian comic-book series Neonomicon (2010, ongoing), which has modern-day FBI agents investigating a series of gory cult killings in Red Hook.
10. My own book Tales of Lovecraftian Cats (2010) includes two prequels to “The Horror at Red Hook”, one of which is set in Red Hook and one of which follows Robert Suydam on his mysterious eight-year sojourn in Europe.
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