The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward

For all his fame and influence on horror in the 20th century and beyond, it was always peculiar how dreadful a writer H. P. Lovecraft was. I suppose it fitted well with what a terrible person he was. But despite this, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward is actually really quite good, and certainly my favourite of his works.

It was recently updated for the 21st century in the medium of a true crime podcast investigating the mysterious disappearance of the eponymous Ward, now an irritating teenager turned occultist. It was a lot of fun to see how they’d adapted to the medium of the podcast, a reclamation of the good old days of epistolary novels. 

I’m pretty familiar with the story, and despite the updates it’s very faithful to the original text, but even so it’s frightening. More so, I think, than the book. When a journalist is poking around in a subterranean laboratory and you *know* exactly what dreadful thing is about to happen, that’s much more scary than it on the page. 

Also, listening to it on headphones to save my wife the scariness made it even worse for me. So that was fun. I binged all ten episodes, listening to the last three this evening, and it ended with a nasty extra twist that I think the novel omitted. 

There were a few flaws. Occasionally, as the investigators in the podcast got deeper into trouble, you wondered why they were adding portentous background music to their recordings, and from time to time the fourth wall became a little damaged. Sometimes it was a little hard to keep track of all the characters, but as time progressed the cast got trimmed down a bit. But otherwise, a very good addition to the genre. 

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