Sunday, February 1, 2009

Zombies On Mushrooms

Hugh B. Cave, a master of pulp, was born in 1910 and cremated in 2004.

He wrote over 1000 short stories and more than 35 novels.

After WWII, he lived in Haiti for a time and wrote Haiti - High Road To Adventure, an acclaimed non-fiction work on the subject of voodoo.

In '79, Avon Books published Legion of the Dead, a rip-roaring paperback original. Its focus was voodoo-created zombies long before zombie fiction became a virtual genre of its own in the early 21st century.
Although a horror novel, Cave incorporates a lot of meaty, well researched business about the country's militia and the genocide of its people. Zombies, fueled by exotic mushrooms, are being enlisted to help in the overthrow of the corrupt President. Against the grain of Romero-inspired zombie lore, these undead critters are not dependent on human brains or other body parts.

The novel's hero, Cary Connoway, is not dissimilar to most men. He throws good judgment out the window when the vagina calls (and who can blame him). After traveling to San Marlo for some much-needed rest and recreation, he becomes embroiled in the undead coup d'etat. Although most guys would get themselves onto the first plane at the first sight of a shambling corpse, Carey's intensifying affections for the beautiful native girl Juna are stronger than the undead threat.

In a gloriously lurid sequence, our hero opts to pursue the kidnapped princess of his loins into a godforsaken cave:

"I'm going back there," he said to Sebastian and Decano when night came again.

"Cary, be reasonable," the poet begged. "What can you hope to accomplish?"

"I can find her!"

"If she is still alive, they have her. And if you try to take her away from them, they will have you, too. We are just no match for them yet."

Getting laid is at stake, so Cary isn't swayed.

"I've got to know what happened."

They did their best to dissuade him, but he would not listen, and in the end they went with him to the cave entrance. There the poet said: "You are a brave and loving man, Cary. God go with you. And Sebastian said: "I will ask the loa to keep you safe, amigo."

If God had been aware of Cary's true intentions, he may have decided to bail out of accompanying the adventurer on his subterranean pussy hunt. Buckets of luck, which one could attribute to divine intervention, come Cary's way, nevertheless, and he achieves his goal.

Legion of the Dead bubbles with invention and the writer's love of the absurd. After the zombie terror has been contained, the following exchange, in true Scooby Doo style, occurs:

"Without any food, my zombies will die. Really die. It will happen soon, too, because they are in need of food now, and would have been given their ration long ago but for the trouble you have caused us." He paused. "Their odor is less strong, you may have noticed. I was on my way to feed them when I discovered you just now."

Another character elaborates:

"They (the zombies) need very little, you see...This small bagful of the dried mushroom powder would have sustained them all. But, as you can see, it is gone. Gone forever, along with all the powder stored here for the future use and all the growing mushrooms from which the powder is prepared. All gone. Forever."

Unfortunately, Hugh B. Cave, who died at 94, is also gone forever.

But his brilliant pulp legacy lives on without the help of mushrooms.

Hugh B. Cave with writer/editor Stephen Jones

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