Monday, July 01, 2019

Favorite Short Stories - Terror in Cut-Throat Cove by Robert Bloch

Spoiler Note: This one you can't discuss without spoiling something. Flee if you want to read it without influence.

Terror in "Cut-Throat Cove" by Psycho-author Robert Bloch doesn't sound like a mythos tale. It sounds like a pirate adventure, and it opens like a John D. MacDonald crime-adventure story. Yet it's a fabulous excursion into cosmic horror. It's kind of a shame it's not anthologized more, though it is in Bloch's Mysteries of the Worm: Early Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.

It appeared first in the June 1958  issue of the digest Fantastic,  which had a bit of a nautical theme and a pirate illustration on the cover, probably making the story's impact even more sneaky to early readers.

It's ultimately a tale that straddles the line that might be drawn through Bloch's work, dividing early supernatural and cosmic horror from the more real-world terrors such as The Scarf and Psycho.

It must have been penned around the same time Bloch was imagining the workings of real-life killer Ed Gein's mind for Psycho which would be published in 1959.

It's the first-person account of a writer,  Howard Lane, living in the Bahamas for the cost-of-living benefits. He's doing his nightly drinking at his favorite bar when he bumps into burly, blond and muscle-bound Don Hanson and his girlfriend Dena Drake, who Lane sees as a Christmas tree angel. She's the beauty perpetually attached to guys like Don, as he sees it.

It's Dena that really leads him to help Don, who has a touch of wealth already and has come to the island of Santa Rita to find sunken pirate treasure including a stunning golden altar. So yeah, it is kind of a pirate story and an adventure story after all.

As SCUBA dives begin, hints emerge that there might be more at the bottom of Cut-Throat Cove than pirate booty. One of Don's employed divers meets a fate not unlike that of Mary Crane's in Psycho, the novel. He loses his head. Divers speak of seeing something with tentacles around the pirate wreck as well.

Soon Lane, which interestingly rhymes with Crane when you think about it, is needed from more than smoothing things over with the local authorities. He learns to dive himself and begins to make his way down to the ship alongside Don. It's there influences slip out to touch his psyche and drive him toward goals far beyond attaining Dena.

The noir themes are many. Dena's beautiful but opportunistic, attached to another while remaining an object of lust.

The crime influences don't stop Bloch from taking things to an interesting place in the cosmic realm however. It's eerie and effective, appropriately mythos yet surprising and extreme.

It may be my favorite of Bloch's stories, as intriguing as "The Shambler from the Stars," "The Shadow from the Steeple" and "Notebook found in a Deserted House."

It's a long read, definitely worth seeking out.



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