Thursday, April 2, 2015

REVIEW: These Black Winged Ones by W.H. Pugmire

"Madness is the key to all of it; don't you see?"

These Black Winged Ones is the first chapbook released by Myth Ink books. The initial printing was limited to a mere 100 copies, though a second printing is still available for order as of this writing.

Within the first few pages we are greeted with a rather touching introduction from Pete Rawlik, a tremendous author in his own right that more people should be reading. To be honest, his foreword is as beautifully crafted as the story it introduces.

Pugmire's tale begins by acquainting us with a young woman willing to do whatever necessary to acquire the ability to dream. Her obsession leads her to a neglected bookshop, replete with dusty tomes of occult lore and a mysterious gentleman willing, at least initially, to assist in her quest. As the two characters converse, we are given an underlying sense that both are harboring secrets and their coming together will likely not end well. The setup reminded me of something out of a Machen or M.R. James story, and I quite enjoyed the antiquated atmosphere.

This being a short story, I am hesitant to speak too much of the plot for fear of spoiling the fun for those yet to read it. What I will say is that, in the span of just over 3,000 words, Pugmire guides us expertly from the dimly-lit bookshop and into a place of even deeper shadow; a place where things are waiting, and have been waiting for a long time.

Wilum H. Pugmire has accomplished something exceedingly difficult with his fiction: he has mastered the art of writing a Lovecraftian tale without it becoming a pastiche. His word choice, his dialogue, even his themes are at times quintessential Lovecraft; however, when he chooses to show that influence, it never detracts from the seriousness of the story, and most certainly never overshadows the confidence of his own voice.

I'd also like to give quick mention to illustrator Luke Spooner's beautiful cover artwork. Not only has he provided a captivating illustration that complements the story, he has visualized the theme of the tale without spoiling it. I hope to see more of his work in the future.


  1. Many thanx for this, which I have just seen this morning. It always surprises me when people tell me I "write like Lovecraft", because I don't try to. I write in what to my mind is a "literary" style, and my idea of such a style comes from writers such as Henry James and Oscar Wilde, as well as Lovecraft, and so it seems, to many, rather outdated. My reply to such a critique is that good writing is never out of date--and I strive for excellence in my prose, flaw'd as it often is. The point of almost everything I write is to express my utter obsession with Lovecraft's excellent fiction, and to extend that fiction in my own manner, bringing to it my personal perversions, decadence, and sublimity. Wonderful reviews such as yours helps me think I am going in the right direction. Thank ye!

    1. No problem at all, Wilum. I think your writing is certainly literary, yet it also has a colorful, poetic quality akin to Clark Ashton Smith or Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories. That's something people often overlook when writing in a Lovecraftian vein; they seem to narrow their focus exclusively on Lovecraft's dry, more academic style instead of seeing the poetry in his language. They also tend to rely too much on mimicry, their own voice becoming buried beneath his words. I believe you are certainly going in the right direction, and I am very excited to see what else you have in store for us.

  2. I just discovered this, and will post this around, but thank you very much for this review, I agree on every point regarding Wilum's work and feel honored to have published 2 of his stories, These Black Winged Ones, and Hand of Bone in our Dark Tales from Elder Regions: New York anthology. I hope we have the opportunity to work with him again!
    Looking forward to more of your reviews!
    Anthony S Burdge
    Myth Ink Books

    1. You are welcome, Anthony! Thank you for the support. I look forward to reading your new release!