Okay, now, this is a terrific story. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” is the best Lovecraft yarn I’ve read so far, by far. It’s the tale of a bookish young man who’s making a tour of New England towns between his junior and senior years in college, so he can study their history and architecture. He winds up in the decaying fishing town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, even though he’s been warned against going there because the inhabitants are, well, strange. Turns out, that’s putting it mildly.
After complaining about the slow pace and lack of dialogue in other Lovecraft stories, this one is much different. It still doesn’t just race along, but it moves fairly well, there’s a lot of dialogue, and Lovecraft actually shows us most of the action instead of just summarizing it, achieving some real suspense along the way. And then at the end, there’s a twist that’s a real gut punch.
“The Shadow Over Innsmouth” was published originally as a stand-alone novella by some outfit called Visionary Press in 1936, then reprinted in the January 1942 issue of WEIRD TALES. I’m sure those of you who are more familiar with Lovecraft and his career than I am know a lot more about the origins of this tale than I do, and if you’d like to weigh in in the comments, please do. I’m going to settle for saying that this is a wonderful yarn, and I have a feeling it’s going to stick with me. I kind of wish I’d read this sitting on my parents’ front porch in the summer of 1967 or ’68 . . .