Providence After Dark and Other Writings collects much of T.E.D. Klein’s nonfiction. This includes his introductions, critical articles, and even reviews. There is a fair assortment in the book, and, being gathered together for the first time, this collection gives the reader an opportunity to both better understand a respected name in the genre and also to more easily get a view on the various works and writers he dealt with.
The volume is organized into six primary sections, the first of which details Klein’s writings relating to H.P. Lovecraft, ranging from detailed introductions to quick notes that were attached to a particular work. The next section “On other Authors” is exactly that, and ranges from introductions to his own belated thoughts and faded memories as to meetings he had with various literary figures. Each is interesting of course, if one takes a particular interest in the individuals involved, and they do much to remind the reader of both Klein’s tastes and the accomplishments of those illustrated.
The third section focuses upon a smattering of Klein’s writings and work related to The Twilight Zone, and particularly to the magazine of that title. Klein edited that magazine for over four years, and his interest in making it a quality work shows through. The fourth section details manly of his thoughts on film, and in the process discusses animal abuse in the film industry for two articles. The passion Klein shows here is obvious, down to his announcement that a director was gloating “like a child over his kill” on page 325.
The fifth section deals with a wide range of other topics, from his time editing CrimeBeat to general thoughts on politics, society, and the difficult question of free speech vs. libel. The final section is made up largely of Klein’s own book reviews, detailing in long and in short his opinions on works and authors. These are divided between the positive and negative in almost equal measure, and some, such as the Ramsey Campbell review, seem very appropriately related to his area of expertise. Others, such as the Ruth Rendell review, seem more outside his wheelhouse, and certainly more divorced from the overall offerings one tends to expect from Hippocampus.
Klein was skilled enough and insightful enough that he will often leave fascinating possibilities hanging in an introduction. On page 35, as part of “A Dreamer’s Tales”, Klein makes note of some flattering comments by Lovecraft in regard to Lord Dunsany, painting them in a light that makes a good argument for Lovecraft having a certain level of same sex sexual desire for the man. It’s an interesting interpretation, and one that at the time of the initial publication in 1986 was very likely not expected Frankly, this is a provocative idea I have never seen explored elsewhere.
The rest of this piece discusses the waxing and waning of Lovecraft’s influences and tastes, and does a good job of it, however never approaches such an interesting theory again.
Another piece of supreme interest is “The Festival” a historical account of the first World Fantasy Convention and fan events and debates that occurred, in particular recounting feuding biographies of Lovecraft, and of his status as a racist and as unprofessional. Points were at the time made for or against, and the difficulty of Lovecraft’s seemingly contradictory views and behaviors was often something of a sticking point in that regard.
His occasional errors include ignoring Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in his selection of articles under “Sci-fi Entertainment” when discussing Lon Chaney films. This is most unfortunate both for the man’s records and for the factual accuracy of the text.
One of the largest flaws of the volume is the lack of an index of any kind. Combined with the often non-indicative titles for articles, this can make the book’s use as a source somewhat frustrating. Further, given how often the author quotes from others, it seems very strange this would not have been considered.
Overall this volume is an excellent example of Klein’s work. As a result, the usefulness of the book itself will depend upon one’s interest in the areas that relate to him. There are ruminations on politics, cinema, fiction, and more. It’s relevance in examining Klien’s own fiction is minimal compared to understanding his opinions of the works and ideas of others, as well as the philosophy he used when working as an editor. Easy to recommend as a tool for research, particularly since other collections of Klein’s nonfiction are nonexistent.
(Hippocampus Press, 2019)