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Our Lady of Darkness Paperback – Oct 1978

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Paperback, Oct 1978
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Distribution Services; New edition edition (October 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006148611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006148616
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 11.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 100 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,907,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


For an accomplished pro like Leiber, a sorry performance. A hack writer of horror stories, recovering from a three-year alcoholic binge with the aid of a pure and lovely harpsichordist, cottons on to some funny influences on the loose in his 'Frisco apartment. It all started with a long-ago weirdo who wrote a volume of dark mutterings against the sinister spiritual forces in modern cities. Leiber can toss off a polished phrase or - with disturbing frequency - a purple inanity. The plot, which involves an occult booby-trap laid fifty years ago for none other than Clark Ashton Smith, has enough loose ends to cover Colt Tower in double macrame. (Kirkus Reviews)

About the Author

FRITZ LEIBER, who died in 1992, was one of the most important SF and fantasy writers of the century.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
43 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Lovecraft's Horror updated to the Mid-Twentieth Century June 29 2001
By Dave Deubler - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Leiber takes a stab at modernizing the H.P.Lovecraft school of horror in this peculiar novel of mid-twentieth century San Francisco. The story revolves around one Franz Westen, recovering alcoholic and horror writer, whose fascination with the steep, solitary hill called Corona Heights leads him into the creepy world of Thibault de Castries, an eccentric mystic. Anarchist, founder of a secret order, and theorizer of the dreaded paramental entities, de Castries' power has touched the lives of many of San Francisco's most illustrious citizens. Can Franz somehow keep from being drawn into its tantalizing maw?
Leiber does an excellent job of migrating Lovecraft's growing disquiet to mid-twentieth century urban angst, theorizing the existence of dark forces that draw their power from the mass aggregations of metal, electricity and lost humanity that compose our great cities. Still, it's difficult to keep an air of suspense for any great length of time, and much of this book is just a slow buildup without very much tension. Leiber has too much good material here for a short story, but as it stands, the novel could have been cut by 50 pages or more without much loss. For example, the protagonist's friends Gunnar and Saul, who appear in so many scenes, don't do anything and really have no function, while the romantic interest, the intellectual Calpurnia, is usually absent despite the critical role she plays.
If you're a big fan of Lovecraft, give this review an extra star - you'll really enjoy Leiber's new take on some classic themes. Add another if you're really into San Francisco's geography and/or literary history, because this book has lots of both. So if you find that you fit the fairly narrow target audience this book seems to have been written for, you'll probably love this novel. This reviewer didn't.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
One of my favorite fantasy/suspense books of all time. Dec 27 2010
By J. Furr - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you like veins-in-your-teeth horror, this isn't for you. But if you like extraordinarily well-written, deeply unsettling fiction that captures its setting and action so vividly that a later trip to the actual locale revealed no surprises, then this IS for you. After reading "Our Lady Of Darkness" I happened to have a chance to travel to the Corona Heights park in San Francisco and other locales depicted in the book and went "Wow. Leiber REALLY captured this place." Few authors could have equalled the visionary characteristics of Leiber's writing. I recommend this book to all my friends.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Literate and Intricate Nov. 28 2010
By Thomas Parker - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure what those who slight this book were looking for - maybe Stephen King horror/populism or Clive Barker fashionable extremisim. It certainly isn't any of those. What it is is literate, atmospheric, intricate, subtle, slyly humorous, and character-driven. It's well worth a read.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
American occultism Oct. 25 2010
By Megan N. Woodrum - Published on
Format: Paperback
I really disagree with the reviews written about this book, for multiple reasons.

While this book does have a philisophical bent, it is more musings on the nature of insanity and reality and the possibility of cities creating their own special brand of supernatural, deemed "paramental" in the book.

The book is very reminiscent of Crowley's "Diary of a Drug Fiend," even mentioning him by name a few times. The writing style is very similar, which could perhaps may cause some readers problems in really becoming engrossed. However, about halfway through the book when the main character begins to truly study the mystery of the paramental, the story becomes very quick and engaging.

While labeled "urban fantasy" it is more in line with horror, and even more specifically, it is dealing with a new breed of occult, something that La Vey and Crowley had a serious hand in. I actually really love this book, and I'm incredibly happy I picked it up despite the reviews I read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A different sort of haunting from one of the masters of supernatural horror Oct. 18 2012
By Jack Tripper - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fritz Leiber, despite being more widely known today for his award-winning science fiction and the sword and sorcery tales starring Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, was also one of the most original and most important horror authors in the history of the genre. His short stories from the 40's, such as "Smoke Ghost," "The Dreams of Albert Moreland," and "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes"--along with his classic 1943 novel, 'Conjure Wife'--were groundbreaking, and cemented his status as the most influential American writer of horror in the post-Lovecraft 40's, paving the way for near-future greats like Bradbury, Beaumont, and Matheson. Whereas most supernatural fiction before Leiber was set in isolated places, he brought the paranormal into the streets of modern cities like Chicago and San Francisco, with some of the finest prose in speculative fiction.

1977's 'Our Lady of Darkness,' Leiber's final novel is, in a way, the culmination of all his ghost stories up until this point. The story revolves around Franz, a horror writer and recovering alcoholic in San Fran loosely based on Fritz himself who, after discovering in a used bookstore an old handwritten journal of bizarre metaphysical ramblings--which he believes to have been owned by (real-life) horror fantasist and Lovecraft colleague Clark Ashton Smith--begins experiencing unexplainable, seemingly supernatural happenings in the city. He starts to notice--from the safety of his apartment two miles away, using binoculars--a mysterious, robed and hooded figure on the ominous hill named Carona Heights. Intrigued, he decides to visit the hill himself, and once atop it, tries to find his own apartment among the multitude with his binoculars, just for the heck of it. What Franz sees in his apartment window chills him: it's the same figure...staring at him.

To say any more would ruin the fun of experiencing the slow-building mystery that, while not exactly filled with blood-curdling terror, is stuffed with the sense of foreboding doom and unsettling, almost smothering atmosphere that Leiber began perfecting four decades earlier with the help of his semi-mentor and letters-correspondent, H.P. Lovecraft. Leiber, however, has a much more engaging style than Lovecraft, and there were times when I forgot I was reading, a rarity for me when reading a novel with such a seemingly outrageous premise.

Though it certainly won't be for everyone (as evidenced by the mixed reviews here), due to long passages of exposition that may not be to some readers' tastes, this was an extremely absorbing experience for me, and anyone looking for an entirely unique take on the classic ghost story could certainly do worse than 'Our Lady of Darkness.' This, along with 'Conjure Wife' and his short story collections--such as 'Night's Black Agents,' 'Heroes and Horrors,' 'Night Monsters,' and 'The Ghost Light,'--are without peer in the genre, and are absolutely essential for fans of intelligent, well-written horror.

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