Providence Blue: A Fantasy Quest by David Pinault.
At his typewriter in little Cross Plains, Texas, Robert E. Howard created big characters—Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, Conan the Barbarian—who shaped the art of fantasy fiction for generations. But Howard would never know it. On June 11, 1936, at the age of thirty, he shot himself outside his country home. Why would he do it, and where could death have taken him?
Providence Blue imagines the strange underworld journey of Howard after his suicide, through Texas flatlands, ancient Egyptian ruins, and New England city gutters. Meanwhile, as his girlfriend Novalyne Price investigates what caused the tragedy, she is led to Providence, Rhode Island, home of the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, where she makes a terrifying, life-changing discovery.
In Providence decades later, aging grad student Joseph Bonaventure struggles to finish his dissertation on Lovecraft. When he and a young librarian, Fay O’Connell, chance upon some of the author’s lost papers, this breakthrough locks both of them in a web of black magic, occult conspiracy, and dark cosmic forces—and ties them intimately to the fate of Robert E. Howard. Alongside a cast of Providence characters, including a local priest and a stray Chihuahua, Joseph and Fay join a supernatural quest for good against evil, heaven against hell, the Lamb of God against the horrors of oblivion.
I was hoping this book would bear up to its premise. This novel was a lot of fun as the story involves and goes on to include other historical actors. In some ways it reminded me of Tim Power’s novel, taking historical characters and weaving a story or them. This is not as slavish to historical details of a Power’s novel, but there is a feeling of having history explained with a rather wild key. There is a comic sensibility regarding what happens to some of the characters while still making the situations seem real. I like that the characters are taken seriously in the bizarre situations involved, truly anchoring the story. I enjoyed this immensely.