The fourth story I wrote in my adult-serious-writer-persona was a deep dive into the man that put Horror on the map in the state I've lived my whole life: the honorable Howard Philips Lovecraft. I knew more than a smidge about the loco boy made good but not really a lot. I figured it was about time to find out what's a Cthulhu, where's Arkham and who is Herbert West?
Although researching a short story, I didn't want to be the guy who lives in a state and doesn't know eldritch squat about its most famous inhabitant. Particularly since I was working in a bookstore in Lovecraft central, literally across the street from where he grew up. I took the History society's famous tour, saw Howie's haunts, read a whole bunch including his works, and even went to a library at Brown University where his archives are kept.
I had decided that my favorite of his tales was "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." I've never been an ocean guy though I live in the Ocean State, Rhode Island. It's not just because, as Woody Allen wrote, "There are spiders at the beach."
It's because I hate getting up at the ass-crack of dawn, loading a car to capacity, putting tepid cold-cut sandwiches on top of a cooler with ice, taking a blanket out of the cellar that has more mold than Bela Lugosi's cedar wardrobe, getting in a four hour traffic jam in 104 degrees, paying a nice dinner's price for parking, walking to a "good spot" in the crowd about three feet away from an obese fifty year old Italian woman's crotch as she yells at three weeble kids to "wait a half hour," lying down on said blanket to begin baking in a sticky coconut smelling haze while hearing "Alone Again, Naturally" from the radio blaring two feet on the other side of you, taking a quick dip in water the temperature of an Arctic glacier, getting thrown hither and yon by an undertow with the strength of Arnold in his early years, fighting algae and poisonous jellyfish, having your warm cold-cuts dive-bombed by a cacophonous group of sea buzzards, only to be killing time for an eternity until you are allowed to go home with salt and sand in every piece of clothing and orifice on your body, until you can finally take a cleansing and sanity-restoring shower and get into your nephew's bed which has more sand than the aforementioned beach at the foot in the sheets, only to feel the waves still tossing your body into the undercurrent and back again to shore.
That may tell you that the beach is not for me. That's why I am so scared and grossed out by "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and why I decided to just go whole-hog into a tale of a golden young couple's car breaking down in Lovecraft's seaside wreck of a town and there being little hope of their remaining unscathed. It may be one of my most brutal.
"Assault at Innsmouth" was a piece that not only got picked up right away, but is actually about to go into its second printing. Tim Deal at Shroud Magazine, then a viable market as "A Journal of Dark fiction and Art" wrote me "I love it" and I got to share the pages with the likes of Ben Eads, Michael Knost, John Shirley, Brian Keene, Kevin Lucia, Willie Meikle and Maurice Broaddus.
Oddly, and very unprofessionally, a man whose last name is Shanker, (like what you get on your genitals when you have syphilis), reviewed the magazine, one in which HE HIMSELF HAD A STORY. There's a sort of pride in me that, after he heaped praise on all involved, he chose, (guess who, yes, me), to throw under the bus with the only negative review of the issue. Everyone in the industry I've ever met since all agree that it was a dick move.
The great thing was that he provided me with a quote I've since used to promote the extreme tale, essentially saying 'I'm never one to knock the value of shock...but (Scott's work) crossed the line...' Thank you, sore-on-balls (Sauron balls?), for bringing many hardcore horror readers to me. Next time: white gloves in a shanty town and listening to Lovecraft.
BELOW: The Fleur-De Lis building in Providence, RI, mentioned in HPL's "Call of Cthulhu."