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The Case of Charles Dexter Ward [Mass Market Paperback]

H.P. Lovecraft
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 12 1987
Incantations of black magic unearthed unspeakable horrors in a quiet town near Providence, Rhode Island. Evil spirits are being resurrected from beyond the grave, a supernatural force so twisted that it kills without offering the mercy of death!

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About the Author

H. P. Lovecraft is one of the seminal horror authors of the twentieth century. He wrote more than one hundred stories, and achieved popular acclaim in such publications as Astounding Stories and Weird Tales. Though he died in 1937, the small press publisher Arkham House was established in 1939 to preserve Lovecraft’s works for future generations. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1 Joseph Curwen, as revealed by the rambling legends embodied in what Ward heard and unearthed, was a very astonishing, enigmatic, and obscurely horrible individual. He had fled from Salem to Providence - that universal haven of the odd, the free, and the dissenting - at the beginning of the great witchcraft panic; being in fear of accusation because of his solitary ways and queer chemical or alchemical experiments. He was a colourless-looking man of about thirty, and was soon found qualified to become a freeman of Providence; thereafter buying a home lot just north of Gregory Dexter's at about the foot of Olney Street. His house was built on Stampers' Hill west of the Town Street, in what later became Olney Court; and in 1761 he replaced this with a larger one, on the same site, which is still standing. Now the first odd thing about Joseph Curwen was that he did not seem to grow much older than he had been on his arrival. He engaged in shipping enterprises, purchased wharfage near Mile-End Cove, helped rebuild the Great Bridge in 1713, and in 1723 was one of the founders of the Congregational Church on the hill; but always did he retain his nondescript aspect of a man not greatly over thirty or thirty-five. As decades mounted up, this singular quality began to excite wide notice; but Curwen always explained it by saying that he came of hardy forefathers, and practised a simplicity of living which did not wear him our. How such simplicity could be reconciled with the inexplicable comings and goings of the secretive merchant, and with the queer gleaming of his windows at all hours of night, was not very clear to the townsfolk; and they were prone to assign other reasons for his continued youth and longevity. It was held, for the most part, that Curwen's incessant mixings and boilings of chemicals had much to do with his condition. Gossip spoke of the strange substances he brought from London and the Indies on his ships or purchased in Newport, Boston, and New York; and when old Dr. Jabez Bowen came from Rehoboth and opened his apothecary shop across the Great Bridge at the Sign of the Unicorn and Mortar, there was ceaseless talk of the drugs, acids, and metals that the taciturn recluse incessantly bought or ordered from him... --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovecraft's Masterpiece June 18 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
At 48,000 words, this is the longest tale that H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote. It is also his best.
This novel has both good plotting and an otherworldly atmosphere that pervades the book. The setting is 1920's New England where there was a revival in interest in the occult. However, the key to the tale is the 18th Century New England scene that Lovecraft had a lifetime interest in.
The character of Charles Dexter Ward was based on Lovecraft himself: a lonely intellectual who was an antiquarian who detested the Industrial Revolution. Ward's research into the occult leads to the reincarnation of one of his ancestors who in turn hatches a plot with both Ward and one of Ward's friends for a mass resurrection of the dead who would become mindless zombies dedicated to both the destruction of heavy industry in America as well as the forced expulsion, if not mass murder, of the Roman Catholic immigrants who Lovecraft detested so much from America.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a fantasy/horror novel that tells you a lot about its author. H.P. Lovecraft was a self-styled aristocrat from a decadent Old Money family who bitterly hated the Roman Catholic Church and especially the Irish and Italian immigrants who by 1928, when this novel was first published, had already assumed a position of political power at the expense of the WASP elite that Lovecraft was a member of. Clearly, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward was reflective of Lovecraft's religious bigotry and his hateful tendencies towards certain ethnic and religious groups. It should come as no surprise that during the 1930's, Lovecraft frequently praised Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a uniquely powerful and compelling work by a master of horror fantasy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lovecraftian gem Sept. 7 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Case of Charles dexter Ward -which remained unpublished during H. P. L. 's lifetime- is certainly one of the most readable and enjoyable efforts of the old gentleman from Providence, even for people who are not addicted to "Call of Cthulhu" role-playing games and similar items about which Grandpa Theobald would probably have been both rather amused and irritated.
The story, unfolding slowly but with an ever increasing pace, revolves around the uncanny relation between one Charles Dexter Ward -a young antiquarian of an old Providence family, quite an alter ego of Lovecraft himself- and his ancestor Joseph Curwen, a Salem warlock from the 17th century. The descriptions of old Providence and its surroundings are exceedingly beautiful and graphic and reveal much of H. P. L. 's affection for his hometown. The story, of course, also has its great moments of cosmic fear, and the accounts of the good people of Providence's raid against Joseph Curwen and that of Dr. Willett, the avuncular and benevolent medical doctor of Ward's family, descending into the sheer abyss of horror (without even a drop of blood being splattered) belong to the most frightening and effective episodes in all of horror literature.
Lovecraft delves deeply into occult lore and black magic, much more so than in most of his other stories, where he mainly relies on some name-dropping, usually of the Great Old Ones and his own invented grimoires (like the Necronomicon & Cie.) to provide a touch of witchcraft, but he does it with utmost effectiveness, in total contrast to many of his contemporaries (and successors). The reason for this is certainly that he was a complete non-believer concerning anything supernatural.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best Lovecraft has to offer July 17 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Long one of my favorite horror stories (I remember reading it at age 13 one night and keeping one eye on the corners of my room), the main thing to remember about this novella is that it was written in the 1920's. I mention this because some of the plot elements could be seen as trite and overused given the wealth of modern horror literature.
Some of the previous reviewers have alluded to the rather plodding pace at the beginning but once the character of J. Curwen is introduced you literally will not be able to put the book down. Even the rather slow start of the story is very entertaining (esspecially the glowing language Lovecraft uses to describe Ward's ramblings in Providence - clearly Lovecraft has a special kinship for the historian in the book's title character).
The story itself is compelling and foreshadows many plot elements that were to become horror mainstays in later years. Interestingly, the typical Lovecraftian mythos here are not the central object of the story, but merely mentioned almost in passing. Curwen - his diabolical use of his young descendent, the noble yet hopelessly naive Ward and the brave Dr. Willet have all become horror archetypes. While these characterizations could be considered wooden and almost one dimensional, they none the less fit the mood and "feel" of the story perfectly.
Lovecraft also treats the reader to well crafted details. The small, minor details and difficulties Curwen experiences in 'modern' day Providence illustrates this perfectly. Curwen's detailed and yet still mysterious history and the town's efforts to expunge his evil from their community are a gripping joy to read and re-read.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsolete Viewpoint
The impact of this novel is materially diminished by its reliance on obsolete paradigms of the previous century. Read more
Published on April 15 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsolete Viewpoint
The impact of this novel is materially diminished by its reliance on obsolete paradigms of the previous century. Read more
Published on April 15 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Sucks you In
I love HP Lovecraft, and this novella is no exception. Its thoughtful and creative and i could not put it down for anything. i loved it.
Published on Oct. 30 2003 by Angela Velazquez
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Lovecraft has to offer
Long one of my favorite horror stories (I remember reading it at age 13 one night and keeping one eye on the corners of my room), the main thing to remember about this novella is... Read more
Published on July 17 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Lovecraft tales
Others have summarized the plot of this excellent story better than I can; I just wanted to mention two things: this is one of, if not the longest Lovecraft work (and the... Read more
Published on June 7 2002 by Mike C
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovecraft's most accessible horror tale
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward has long been one of my favorite books. Charles Ward is an intellectual young recluse steeped in antiquarianism (much as Lovecraft himself was) who... Read more
Published on March 17 2002 by Daniel Jolley
4.0 out of 5 stars A good old fashioned horror story!
Although The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward is one of the few old-fashioned horror books I have read, I found it quite interesting. Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars It just doesn't get any better than this
This is HPL's greatest work, bar none. One thing that sets it apart from many other HPL stories is that the antagonist isn't an ill-defined cosmic menace or alien monster, but... Read more
Published on May 10 2001 by John Millington
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovecraft's Best!
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward ranks as one of Lovecraft's best stories he ever wrote. Unlike some of Lovecraft's other stories, which are nothing more than incoherent ramblings... Read more
Published on March 17 2001 by "bookfreak13"
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware Ye Who Enter
For fear is around the corner. For Howard Phillips Lovecraft, death was never a worry. For many of the characters in his books, death was almost a relief from the torture. Read more
Published on July 31 2000 by rareoopdvds
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