Levi Black hits the ground running with his novel Red Right Hand. In the first few pages, protagonist Charlotte Tristan Moore is menaced by a trio of uncanny and bloodthirsty skinless canines. The savage hounds are only the beginning of her woes. Charlotte, who prefers the nickname Charlie, is distantly related to H.P. Lovecraft. She discovers that the basis of her great-great-uncle’s writings were mystical visions that prove to be quite real. This knowledge catapults Charlie into supernatural dangers of cosmic proportions.
Charlie is critical of Lovecraft’s prose, “Words that had been out of date when he wrote them, containing enough syllables to make my jaw hurt, and he used them as though it were his job. Four adjectives to describe one noun, and three or four nouns in a sentence.” Like many a caustic reviewer, she receives a comeuppance. Her long deceased relative is vindicated for being profusely verbose. He was aware of the wrath of the Elder Gods and their destructive agenda and attempted to convincingly communicate the lurking peril. Charlie’s heritage causes her to become an unwilling acolyte of Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. The entity has several other unsavory epithets, and in semi-human form dons a coat with a life of its own. Disguised in the glamour of a man, the being brandishes an appendage that gives one pause. His right hand is thus described: “It thrust from the edge of his coat sleeve, the one bright patch of color on the doom-black darkness of him. This close, it glistened in the incandescent kitchen light. Wet, or possibly greasy—as though it had been flayed, dusky skin peeled off, leaving behind the raw red of meat, the exposed underflesh. Subtly shiny like it had been dipped in crimson liquid latex.”
Clad in black and prone to blackmail, Nyarlathotep manipulates Charlie by turning Daniel, her friend and potential romantic interest, into a minion. The Elder God, however, underestimates Charlie’s pluck and resolve. A heinous assault during her adolescence forced her to learn survival skills. Now, in her twenties, she retains certain vulnerabilities but has mastered self-defense and possesses chutzpah galore. Her conscripted tie to the Crawling Chaos does have perks: it endows her with magic abilities.
No Lovecraft ode would be complete without the inclusion of Cthulhu. In this narrative there’s a gory variant of “Clash of the Titans” as Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep metaphorically lock horns—or gills—or some sort of protrusion. The power battle for supremacy is preceded by a segment set among diners in a sushi restaurant that is drolly eccentric and extremely amusing.
Levi Black’s urban fantasy-horror romp is very well written. Though the story is peppered with snarky dialogue, suspense isn’t sacrificed. Consider this intense depiction of a confrontation with one of the previously mentioned demonic dogs: “The hound jerked around, its skinless head still looming over and dripping on me. The rumble in its chest shook loose fat droplets of slick liquid that drizzled across my arm, my shoulder, my neck.” The author also finely integrates the unfolding of the story with Charlie’s character development. The plot and her personality arc are nicely entwined.
Red Right Hand, published by Tor Books, is the first full length novel written by James R. Tuck under the Levi Black pseudonym. It isn’t going to be the last, given that the set-up for a sequel has been established. Here’s hoping that the further Mythos adventures of the intrepid Charlie will satisfy as much as the debut.