Allied Authors of Wisconsin member John D. Haefele’s first foray into book-length literary criticism has made quite an impact.
In the months following the release of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos — Haefele’s study of August Derleth’s contributions to H.P. Lovecraft’s shared system of lore — the book has received a number of positive and balanced reviews, including some early praise from literary critic Don Herron.
According to Herron, “(Haefele) is taking on the almost thankless task of defending Derleth, whipping post for recent generations of Lovecraft scholars, and does a great job of it…”
“Thankless” might be putting it mildly, in light of one scathing review written by leading Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi. “Lovecraft Literary Feud: S.T. Joshi Rebuts John D. Haefele,” an article by Peter Cannon in Publishers Weekly’s news blog, sums up Joshi’s reaction and links to his critique.
After several invitations from Lovecraft scholars, Haefele presented his response to Joshi’s rebuttal on Herron’s website.
However, the vast majority of feedback has been very encouraging, including these excerpts:
“Haefele cites abundant secondary sources to support his arguments, and in many cases turns the words of Derleth’s sharpest critics back against them. This book does not resolve the controversy over Derleth and his handling of the mythos, but it does present its key issues from a different and often enlightening perspective.” — Publishers Weekly
“I appreciate authors that do their research, and Haefele certainly has done that; I also appreciate writers who know how to write, and Haefele fulfills that function handily.” — Brian Leno, REHtwogunraconteur.com
“I don’t expect this book to rehabilitate Derleth in the current Lovecraftian community. It is a shot fired by a fan and full of much forgiveness, but it is well researched and well thought out. It is an ‘untimely meditation’ in Lovecraftian studies. But it gives a great intellectual history of Arkham House and the dedicated work of an individual who made sure certain cultural artifacts survived. The book is a solid contribution to scholarship about the evolution of the weird tale in America — covering not only literary efforts, but commercial ones as well. As writers our fate is bound up in the presses that publish us.” — Don Webb, New York Review of Science Fiction
Haefele is currently working on his next book.