Book Review: “Book of the Elder Wisdom: An Eldritch Mystery” by R. Walter Dutton

I heard of this book thanks to Joy V. Spicer’s review of it. Naturally, since I’m always interested in neo-Lovecraftianism, I picked it up.

The book takes place in 1984, when the narrator stumbles upon a bloody backpack belonging to someone named Jared Palmer at a strange site in a remote part of the desert. He hires a private investigator to help him find Palmer and unravel the mystery.

However, their investigations only lead to more questions: Palmer is apparently mixed-up with a strange cult that practices odd rituals, and which apparently attaches some significance to the protagonist, due to the fact he is related to a certain famous author. (Not named, but there’s no doubt who it is.)

Things get weirder and weirder. The activities of the cult prove to be far more widespread and sinister than initially imagined. There are conspiracies within conspiracies, and double- and triple-crosses. Above all, there is the possibility, as always in your really top-flight Lovecraft tales, that our protagonist is an unreliable narrator.

Basically, the book is pure Lovecraftian horror. Even the writing style evokes HPL’s. At times, it out-Lovecrafts Lovecraft, if that is in fact possible.

I won’t say too much more about the plot, except that I was a satisfied customer–I came in looking for some good old-fashioned cosmic horror, and I got what I wanted.

That’s pretty much my review. If you like Lovecraft, you’ll like this.

Now, there’s one other comment I have. It’s a bit of a spoiler, but I hope not too much. Feel free to skip it if you want to maximize your surprise when reading the book.

As some readers may recall, I recently reviewed the film Wonder Woman 1984. There’s a scene in it where one of the characters meets the President–never named in the film, but obviously resembling Reagan–who reveals the existence of a secret satellite network capable of broadcasting across the globe.

In this book, there’s a scene where a character meets the President–again, not named, but it’s obvious who he is, not only because it’s 1984, but because of his manner and his fondness for jelly beans. And a top-secret satellite broadcasting network is integral to the plot of this book, also!

Apart from these details, Wonder Woman 1984 and Book of the Elder Wisdom are nothing alike. (For the record: Book of the Elder Wisdom was published in August 2020, WW84 premiered in December 2020.) But these commonalities were interesting to me. Why? Well, I’m not sure. I feel like it says something about the zeitgeist, the millieu, the cultural moment, and any other pretentious five-dollar terms you can think of that mean “what was happening at the time.”

But I don’t know what it is. I can’t even begin to speculate about what it is.

Ah, well. Like the fella once said, “The most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”  Who knows if there is any connection to be drawn at all, or if it’s just some odd coincidence. In any case: Book of the Elder Wisdom is a fun cosmic horror yarn.

8 Comments

  1. Isn’t it nice sometimes to pick up a book and get exactly what you wanted? Sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy your favorite tropes and devices instead of being shocked or surprised.

  2. You read it! I’m glad you enjoyed it as I did 🙂

    Apt description, that it out-Lovecrafts Lovecraft!

    Wowser! That the same thing is mentioned in the book and the film… As you say, probably just a coincidence but the mind sure is boggling!

    Oh, and thanks for the mention, tis appreciated 🙂

  3. Berthold and Joy, thank you for your kind words. I think both of you understood what my book was trying to say, which is gratifying. Certainly, many more people are now aware of Lovecraft than was true in his lifetime, but how many actually read Lovecraft?

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