Expected to be released on the 15th of March 2018, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, Her Blood Runs Cold will continue the adventures of detective Hank Flynn as he faces off with forces of Eldritch terror. The second instalment in the Casefile: Arkham comic series will see the hard-boiled detective battle against a femme fatale with mysterious powers in a tale inspired by H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Thing on the Doorstep.
We caught up with author Josh Finney to find out what horrors lurk in store for the hard-drinking sleuth.
Tom: There is a rich and long-running tradition of fiction inspired by Lovecraft’s stories. Why do you think his work continues to captivate?
Josh: In a word: relevance. There’s a very strong argument for Lovecraft being the first modern horror writer. Unlike his contemporaries and those who came before him, whose horrors resided within the framework of Christian morality, Lovecraft’s stories were uniquely Nietzschean. When Nietzsche said “God is dead” it wasn’t some bold statement of his own atheism, but rather an echoing of Lovecraft’s words at the beginning of The Call of Cthulhu:
“The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
At the dawn of the 20th Century Nietzsche saw mankind beginning to piece all that dissociated knowledge together and knew the terrifying vistas it was opening—we weren’t at the center of some Father God’s universe, but specks of cosmic dust with no greater purpose than to live and die. Nietzsche feared this revelation would not only drive us mad, but push us into a new dark age of blissful ignorance.
Lovecraft’s Mythos embodies these fears like no other. There is no greater morality in Lovecraft’s universe than the morality the characters make for themselves. There is no cosmic master plan for man to fit into, just the incomprehensible vastness of space and time. Man isn’t special. Nor is Earth. There is no deeper purpose to our being beyond the evolutionary imperative of eat, reproduce, and die.
I’d say these fears are even more relevant now than when Lovecraft was alive.
Tom: The Casefile: Arkham series owes a great debt to both Lovecraft and Raymond Chandler. Can you describe your first encounters with these authors and how they have influenced your own work?
Josh: During the 80s and 90s, Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu role-playing game was the gateway drug that hooked a lot of young readers on the Lovecraft Mythos. The art and writing of those old Chaosium products did such a wonderful job portraying the source material that it made you want to seek out the original stories. Now, decades later, I’m working with one of those amazing artists who brought the Chaosium games to life. Before Patrick was illustrating books like my Casefile Arkham, he’d produced a lot of the art seen in those old Chaosium games—Call of Cthulhu, Arkham Horror, etc.
I came to Raymond Chandler much later in life, being familiar with his work primarily through film. It actually wasn’t until I decided to write Casefile: Arkham that I made a point of reading his body of work—which was quite eye-opening. As I tore through the pages of Chandler’s famous anti-hero, down-at-heel private-eye Phillip Marlowe, I was struck by two realizations. First, why hadn’t I read these novels sooner?! And second, I was shocked to see how Chandler’s stories, and more distinctly his prose style, informed so much of what I already loved. The works of some of my favorite author—William Gibson, John Shirley, James Elroy, Jeff Noon–had Chandler’s influence all over their work. Not to mention Blade Runner and Max Headroom.
Tom: The Casefile: Arkham series presents a mash-up of post-war film noir/pulp detective novels and serials with Lovecraftian fiction. It certainly ended up reading like a natural fit, but was it a challenge at all to combine these two genres, each with their own specific set of tropes and expectations?
Josh: There were a lot of challenges in writing the first Casefile: Arkham, but setting a detective noir in a Mythos universe wasn’t one of them. I’m obsessive when it comes to research. When I take on a project I want to know the subject matter inside and out. I read, watch, and listen to literally everything I can get my hands on to better understand not only the tropes of what I’m writing, by the historical and philosophical underpinnings that makes it tick.
The “ah-ha” moment for Casefile: Arkham came when I realized both noir and cosmic horror were spawned from the same sociopolitical beast. Realise, all those great noir novels that were made into films in the 1940s were written in the 1920s & 30s, which was also when Lovecraft was churning out his mythos. As mentioned above, it comes back to those Nietzschean fears. Those noir writers were reacting to a rapidly changing world rocked by the Great War, the Depression, industrialization, and ultimately, the moral uncertainty that comes with the death of God. What is noir, if not good people struggling to get by in a dangerous, morally uncertain world, where nothing is as it seems. As Hank Flynn says in the second Casefile: Arkham, “Does matter if it’s a Sumerian God, or a two-bit hood with a gun in your back—it’s all the same.”
Tom: Nightmare on the Canvas was inspired by Pickman’s Model, whereas Her Blood Runs Cold draws on The Thing on the Doorstep. How do you approach the act of adaptation?
Josh: With Nightmare on the Canvas I wanted the story to run parallel to the original Lovecraft piece. Essentially, you were getting to see the events of Pickman’s Model from a different angle. The events behind the events, as it were. Ideally, I’d like all the Casefile: Arkham stories to function as such. That said, it simply was not possible for The Thing on the Doorstep.
Her Blood Runs Cold came to me when realizing The Thing on the Doorstep shared just enough similarities to a Raymond Chandler novel that the two could be merged into a great detective mystery. Then there was the fact that as a story, The Thing on the Doorstep has more than a few narrative shortcomings—namely the portrayal of Asenath. For my story to work, Asenath had to be developed into something more than a thinly veiled stand-in for Lovecraft’s ex-wife, Sonia Green.
Tom: The series features some stellar artwork by Patrick McEvoy. How did the two of you come to work together and how would you characterise your creative partnership?
Josh: The fabulous art talents of Patrick McEvoy were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said: “By the Power of Grayskull! I need an artist!” Then Patrick McEvoy appeared, the most powerful painter in the Universe! Actually, Patrick and I met while we both had books published under Archaia Entertainment. We’d tabled together at a lot of conventions and hit it off from there. But that doesn’t sound nearly as cool as magic swords and the Power of Grayskull.
Our work process is fairly organic. He trusts my ability as a writer, and I show him the same in his art. Unless I need something very specific, I want to allow him the maximum amount of freedom when it comes to his illustrations. I trust his instincts, as he does mine. This has served us well.
Tom: Lovecraft’s work is notorious for featuring what he terms as unnamable, indescribable monstrosities (which he quite often then goes on to describe). Does this make the transfer to a visual medium tricky or does it allow for more creative license?
Josh: For all of Lovecraft’s unnamable, indescribable horrors, over the years most of his monsters have become tied to specific portrayals—Cthulhu being the most obvious. Then again, nearly a century of artists interpreting a writers imaginings will do that. So I’ve been quite impressed by Patrick’s ability to take all these now classic gods and monsters and put his own unique spin on them. His portrayal of Dagon is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Frankly, I can’t wait to see what he does with old squid face.
Tom: Where do you see Hank Flynn going in future stories?
Josh: There are still so many stories to tell. As long as readers continue making Casefile: Arkham financially feasible for Patrick and I to do, there will be stories. I’ve already written a treatment for book three which has Flynn going down to New Orleans on the trail of…well, I’ll leave that as a clue to the hardcore Lovecraft fans. If you know the mythos, you know what’s coming for the good Detective and the beautiful witch he’s come to love.
Other Lovecraft tales I’d like to put through the Casefile: Arkham lens are: The Shadow Out of Time, The Dunwich Horror, Dreams in the Witch House, and then, of course, there is going to have to be a major confrontation in Innsmouth between Flynn and the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Likewise, Patrick has been itching to do something involving the Colour Out of Space. So yes, there’s are plenty more stories to tell.
Really, Hank Flynn’s future depends on fans. And the number one things fans can do to insure future adventures is to go on to Amazon and post a review. Even if you didn’t buy Casefile: Arkham from them, by posting a review helps Amazon know which kind of people to suggest our books to. And the bigger an audience Casefile: Arkham has, the more feasible it is for Patrick and I keep producing.
Tom: Lastly, do you have any other upcoming projects that you are able to tell us about?
Josh: That would be telling. Although, if you want to keep up with what I’m doing and receive free content, subscribe to my website at www.jishirofinney.com.