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Strange Horizons

 

H.P. Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls

Reviewed by James M. Palmer

(Originally published on SciFiNow October 26, 2000)

 

Audio Book (60 min.) $9.95  The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company

Tired of the same old stuff? Want to experience science fiction, fantasy, and horror in a whole new way? Then close your eyes and let the radio take you to worlds that exist only in your imagination.  The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company has been doing professional quality, "Golden Age" style radio productions since 1984. Because of the increasing popularity in audio books, they create cassettes of these productions for sale. I have been hooked on these guys for a few years now, and they never fail to entertain and thrill me. ARTC does both original works and adaptations of classic science fiction, fantasy, and horror. In this review, I will look at two adaptations of stories by horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

For those unfamiliar with H.P. Lovecraft, he was a New England writer who penned many disturbing horror tales in the style of Poe and Lord Dunsany. He is most famous for creating his own mythology, which centered around a god called Cthulhu and a sacred book, the Necronomicon, which people to this day still believe is borrowed from Sumerian mythology and is very real (and if you believe that, I have a Miskatonic University catalog that I’ll sell you real cheap).

The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company does a good job adapting Lovecraft for audio. The first tape, The Rats in the Walls, stars Harlan Ellison as the main character Delapore, who moves from America into Exham Priori, his rebuilt ancestral home in England. He finds the villagers there are a superstitious lot with long memories, dating back to when Delapore’s ancestor killed his entire family and fled to America. He spends his time digging through old records, a common device used by Lovecraft in many of his stories, and uncovers the Priori’s ghastly history. He also hears rats in the walls, always going down under the house, that no one else but his cats can hear. Delapore is also tortured by strange dreams of a huge grotto where a foul swineherd keeps a flock of some sort of devolved pig men. He finally traces the rat sounds to a stone altar under the Priori and, with a team of experts, lifts it to find the grotto of his dreams.

This is a great production, made more so by Harlan Ellison. The man has a wonderful speaking voice and he’s a natural actor, and he’s the perfect choice to play the tortured Delapore. If you’re just a fan of Ellison himself, you’ll love this tape.

The only problem I had with this play was that it had too many flashbacks. The first one, in which Delapore explained to his dead son’s friend Noyce how his grandfather was killed defending their home in the Civil War, was an interesting, if involved, back story.  The next one, in which Delapore explained why he named is cat Voodoo, was just pointless and silly, and didn’t add to the main thrust of the plot. Other than that, The Rats in the Walls is a fine production, and one I listen to over and over again.

For more information on these and other productions, contact the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at 5295 Highway 78, Suite D-PMB 343 Stone Mountain, GA 30087, or visit them on the Internet at www.artc.org.

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