Editor Spotlight: Linda Lovecraft

While at boarding school I discovered science-fiction and horror fandom and began corresponding with various other young enthusiasts including Ramsey Campbell. I decided to publish my own fanzine, which I called Cthulhu (I’d stumbled upon Lovecraft in an old Avon horror anthology when I was about 10.) This turned out to be a real underground publication because I was instantly forbidden use of the school’s printing and photocopying facilities for such an offensive project […] Somehow, Calvin Beck, the publisher of Castle of Frankenstein magazine in America, got hold of a copy of Cthulhu and reprinted some of the reviews and news items. […] Cal also announced that he’d appointed me the magazine’s “European Editor” (and had already described me as such in the mag!) How could I say no? […]
—”The Kiss of the Devil,” Pulpmania #1 (2006), 51

In 1976 Corgi Books in the United Kingdom released The Devil’s Kisses, a paperback collection of erotic horror stories. This proved successful enough that the next year they released a further collection, More Devil’s Kisses, also in paperback, but no further volumes were issued in the series. The nominal editor for both was “Linda Lovecraft”—a pseudonym adopted by horror editor Michel Parry solely for this project.

Parry had achieved success as an anthologist with the Mayflower Book of Black Magic series (6 volumes between 1974 and 1977); these were cheap paperback horror collections which were thematic descendants of the Not at Night series assembled by editor Christine Campbell Thomson. When Pulpmania asked him about the origin of Devil’s Kisses, Parry explained:

The idea was mine. Over the years I’d read a number of stories with a surprisingly suggestive subtext, and it seemed to me a viable commercial proposition to collect them together. Patrick Janson-Smith was by then the editor at Corgi and approved the idea right away. In a sense it was a continuation of the Mayflower series, but pushing the envelope further. It seemed innovative at the time, but now, of course, the erotic horror story has become an established sub-genre with various editors and publishers specialising in this kind of fiction. (ibid, 55)

TDKThe Devil’s Kisses consisted of 11 stories, nine of them reprints—including pulp stories from Weird Tales contemporary with H. P. Lovecraft, such as C. L. Moore’s “Shambleau” (Nov 1933), and Mindret Lord’s “Naked Lady” (Sep 1934). Two original stories were published in the volume for the first time, including Ramsey Campbell’s “The Other Woman.”

None of these are stories of the Cthulhu Mythos, although “Shambleau” certainly falls under the category of “Lovecraftian.” The stories are rarely sexually explicit, being much more suggestive and titillating than pornographic. A solid collection but one with a narrow focus. In the introduction, “Linda Lovecraft” noted, after describing the Devil’s penis:

Even with accessories like this, Satan found he simply didn’t have time to personally attend to all the dirty work his diabolic mind dreamt up (we can’t blame him, of course; he was just doing his job.) So he began to share his work-load with lesser devils and demons. One of their chief errands was to enter into the bodies of innocent young virgins and nuns and put them up to all kinds of unladylike activities of the kind shown in The ExorcistThis sort of devilry was so successful that eventually Satan had to organize a special team of demons specializing in the pleasant tasks of seduction and possession. He called these demons his succubi and incubi.
The Devil’s Kisses 5

The introduction’s focus on medieval Christian demonology, and The Exorcist (1973) all fit in with the idea of The Devil’s Kisses as an expansion of The Mayflower Book of Black Magic seriesand, to an extent, the popular series of Dennis Wheatley’s Library of the Occult, a paperback collection of classic horror which ran to 45 books from 1974 to 1977. Even the name is suggestive of the osculum infame, the kiss of shame with which witches supposedly greeted the Devil at Sabbats. And The Devil’s Kisses sold enough books to merit another entry in the series:

The first Devil’s Kisses anthology proved successful enough for a second volume to be commissioned. This was also initially successful, but then someone apparently complained to Scotland Yard about one of the stories, “Magic Show” by Chris Miller. I’d found this story in The National Lampoon, a glossy magazine of collegiate, mostly gross humour (miller went on to write National Lampoon’s Animal House and other gross-out comedies). The story concerns an entertainer who subverts a children’s party in unexpected ways. It’s very over-the-top and too ridiculous to be taken seriously for an instant. […] Scotland Yard warned Corgi that they might be liable to prosecution. Publishers always consult their lawyers and lawyers always embrace a “Worst case Scenario” to cover themselves. Result: the book was withdrawn and pulped.
—”The Kiss of the Devil,” Pulpmania #1 (2006), 56

MDK

The contents of More Devil’s Kisses are slightly more interesting than the first volume. While still predominantly reprints, there are four original stories, including “Loveman’s Comeback” by Ramsey Campbell, which isn’t strictly a Mythos story, but definitely adjacent to Lovecraftian interests. None of the others are Lovecraft-related.

To end things with a bang we finish with Chris Miller’s “The Magic Show” and a party. Admittedly it’s more of a children’s party than a stag party but things really start to swing once Dr. Fun takes charge of the games and shows the kids a new trick or two… A lot of people have told me that “Boxed In,” Chris Miller’s story in The Devil’s Kisses, is the most shocking story they have ever read. After they’ve read this new party-piece by Chris, “Boxed In” will be the second most shocking story the have ever read.
More Devil’s Kisses 13

“The Magic Show” by Chris Miller, which is what gained this book its infamy and ultimately killed the promising series, is exactly as Parry described it—ribald gross-out sexual humor, an over-the-top bit of jocular prose that combines touches of pedophilia, drug use, and a donkey show. Only explicit in parts, the story is transgressive and ribald but not exactly masturbation fodder (I hope). It’s hard to think of this kind of story being published today, but it’s possible to see Parry trying to one-up The Devil’s Kisses and overshooting the mark.

David Drake, whose story “Smokie Joe” also appears in More Devil’s Kisses, gave a slightly different take on events surrounding the publication, recalling:

I recall Michel saying that he’d wondered if he was going to have to appear in court in drag and blond wig after the raid. […] no sooner had the book hit the newsstands than the police impounded all copies on an obscenity complaint and briefly locked up the in-house editor. The charges were dropped when the publisher (Corgi) pulped the whole edition. Because the matter didn’t go to trial, there’s no certainty as to which precise matters were the subject of the complaint. The best bet is that the Chris Miller piece had caused the problem, but that was a reprint from a magazine which had been sold in Britain without objection. The only other evidence is that when the book was brought out in Germany, two stories were dropped; Miller’s and “Smokie Joe.”
Night & Demons (2013), 70-71

Parry, being closer to the source of things, almost certainly is correct in pointing to “The Magic Show” as the primary offender, but it’s possible that they took no chances with the German translation.

Which does raise the question: if none of these stories have anything to do with the Cthulhu Mythos, what’s with the name “Linda Lovecraft”?

I used the name “Linda Lovecraft” for the Devil’s Kisses anthologies: an obvious fusion of the names of porn star Linda Lovelace and writer H. P. Lovecraft. I was very surprised later on to discover an American comic devoted to the erotic exploits of Linda Lovecraft! […] With The Devil’s Kisses, I took the notion of using a pen-name a step further by writing the introduction in the persona of the putative editor. As “Linda Lovecraft” I was free to make outrageous jokes and puns and be as flippant as I pleased. In effect the introduction became as much a piece of fiction as any of the stories in the collection, and possibly a more convincing fiction. Ideally, I would have liked to have extended this deception further by hiring an actress to “be” Linda Lovecraft and go out and promote the book and do signings and the like. needless to say, Corgi’s promotional budget (if there was one) didn’t extend to such surreal endeavours!
—”The Kiss of the Devil,” Pulpmania #1 (2006), 56-57

Pornographic actress Linda Lovelace gained widespread fame in the 1970s for the films Deep Throat (1972) and The Confessions of Linda Lovelace (1974); Lovecraft was gaining popularity in the late-60s and early 70s with releases by Victor Gollancz and Panther in the UK. The other “Linda Lovecraft” was the creation of comic writer/artist Mike Vosburg, and premiered in the pages of the semi-pro comic magazine Star*Reach #3 (1975); in an interview with Vosburg in the Star*Reach Companion (2013), he gives essentially the same etymology for the name as Parry, both writers having arrived at it by coincidence (70-71). Vosburg would rebrand and relaunch the character as Lori Lovecraft in series and graphic novels of her own. Some sources appear to confuse the inspiration for Parry’s pseudonym with the owner of the Lovecraft sex shop, which formerly operated in London in the 1970s.

Parry’s persona as Linda Lovecraft was a bit thin; the copyright notices for the books cite both Linda and Michel Parry, but the German translations Teuflische Küsse (1978) and Zehn Teufelsküsse (1978) do not attempt to continue the deception. The idea of hiring a female actor for personal appearances recalls the Scottish weird author William Sharp, who engaged in such practices to disguise his pseudonym Fiona Macleod…and likewise recalls deceptions by authors of Cthulhu Mythos fiction including Carol Grey (Robert A. W. Lowndes), Sally Theobald (Robert M. Price), and Justine Geoffrey (Scott R. Jones).

There is a certain irony in considering these “female impersonators” with ties to Lovecraftian fiction, given the widespread idea of female writers needing to take on male pseudonyms to publish—James Tiptree Jr. (Alice B. Sheldon) being one example; for another, after her marriage Catherine Lucille Moore often wrote and collaborated with her husband Henry Kuttner, with the works mostly published under his name or a shared pseudonym such as Lewis Padgett.

The same pressures did not exist for Parry, Lowndes, Price, or Jones. For Price and Jones, the pseudonym served a purpose in the context of the Lovecraftian work; the assumption of the identity was of a piece with the fiction. For Parry, the name and persona became a convenient draw for the books—the name evoking at a glance both sex and horror, even as the personality was evocative of classic horror host Vampira and similar horror hosts.

While ultimately little more than a footnote to those interested in Lovecraftian fiction, it’s worth pointing out that while “Linda Lovecraft” was only nominally connected with H. P. Lovecraft—literally in name only—under his own name, Parry included a number of Lovecraft’s stories in other anthologies he edited throughout the 1970s, and so contributed to the general spread of Lovecraftian fiction…and occasional references to it have popped up in odd places. Simon R. Green in his novel The Bride Wore Black Leather (2012), for instance, references “The Linda Lovecraft Library of Spiritual Erotica.”

One final piece of advice before I go…whatever you do, don’t read this book alone at night. Make sure you have someone with you, someone you like. try reading the book together with the lights turned low. The stories are much more effective that way. If the atmosphere is right, I promise you they’ll scare the pants off the men and give the ladies the willies…

Love and Kisses,

LINDA LOVECRAFT

—Michel Parry, More Devil’s Kisses 13


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

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