THE DEEP ONES: "Black Man with a Horn" by T.E.D. Klein

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THE DEEP ONES: "Black Man with a Horn" by T.E.D. Klein

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set. 7, 2012, 10:35am

I'll be reading this out of Dark Gods.

set. 7, 2012, 10:51am

Cthulhu 2000 for me.

set. 7, 2012, 10:55am

Dark Gods for me too.

set. 7, 2012, 11:09am

Cthulhu 2000 for me.

set. 7, 2012, 11:22am

Dark Gods for me!

BTW - the podcast listed under "Miscellany" is a vintage 26-minute interview with the elusive Klein. Check out some of the other interviewees over on the right, too. Good stuff!

set. 12, 2012, 8:32am

This story was excellent. The only Klein I've read has been the two pieces (this one and "The Events at Poroth Farm") we've treated among the Deep Ones. It seems like I routinely used to see Klein's books for sale used, but not lately, now that I know I'd be happy to pick them up.

The speaker of the piece is never named, is he? The opening epigram seems to imply that it might be E. Hoffman Price, so I looked him up in Wikipedia, and the bio is a long way from being a match. Still, it seems that the idea was to have the central character be a fictitious fellow with a relationship to HPL similar to that of Price's.

set. 12, 2012, 8:50am

If the Necronomicon actually existed, it would probably be out in paperback with a preface by Colin Wilson.
Yeah, I've got that one. Klein's reference here is patently to the George Hay Necronomicon, issued in 1978 (a couple of years before "Black Man with a Horn" was first published). I have the Skoob reissue of 1993. I'm not even going to attempt a touchstone here, because the Necronomicon combination/separation issues in LT are (predictably) vexed, but here's a direct link.

Oh, wait! It appears that the Colin Wilson intro was added in 1993, thus following Klein's lead, rather than inspiring his reference. Hoho.

And for all the gesture to disenchantment in Klein's character's reflection, the fact is that books like The Encyclopaedia of Ancient and Forbidden Knowledge don't deliver half of what they promise, while the true arcana are obstructed from popular publishing by far more than simple lack of customer demand. (I am hereby inspired to add "More Light" by James Blish to the nominations thread!)

set. 12, 2012, 8:57am

Necronomicon - forced touchstone (just so the list on the right will show it). Yes, I've been wondering about that one - thanks for clarifying the publication history.

set. 12, 2012, 9:03am

My books are all packed away until next week. I read this Klein story last year, but I'll be on stand by for the most part for this week's discussion. :(

set. 12, 2012, 9:19am

Although I was most charmed by the pseudo-biographical and metatextual elements of this story, another point worth discussing was the frank but understated confrontation with HPL's racism.
It was, in fact, a thorny problem: forced to choose between whites whom I despised and blacks whom I feared, somehow I preferred the fear.

Editat: set. 12, 2012, 9:40am

>11 paradoxosalpha:

The very title of the story broaches the subject head-on I think, although the specific line you quote seems to intimate that the protagonist is more of a misanthrope (with strong echoes of HPL's outlook, admittedly). For me, "Black Man with a Horn" conjures some mighty fine jazz imagery - and isn't there a scene that takes place in a jazz club? I've read that Klein modeled the protagonist specifically after Frank Belknap Long.

Editat: set. 12, 2012, 9:46am

>7 paradoxosalpha:

I've never been able to get a real bead on why T.E.D. Klein effectively stopped writing horror after such a promising start, or even what he's been doing for all these years. Just "writer's block". Maybe it's as simple as that, unfortunately. There is a collection from Subterranean Press called Reassuring Tales that I'd like to get my hands on, but I think most of his weird output can be found in The Ceremonies and Dark Gods.

Editat: set. 12, 2012, 10:13am

> 12

Yeah, Long seems like a closer match than Price, but there's still significant discrepancy. Klein's speaker is a fine invention. The "Poroth Farm" narrator was quasi-autobiographical, no? Did Klein ever have a teaching post after he got his doctorate?

set. 12, 2012, 10:45am

I've never read "Poroth Farm" stand alone - just The Ceremonies which was apparently developed from it. But what struck me there is that the protagonist is simply reading everything HPL mentions in Supernatural horror in literature - hardly an academic doing serious research.

set. 12, 2012, 10:51am

> 15

Actually, Klein wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on HPL. The idea of an American college professor building a course around SHiL isn't far-fetched to me at all. In "Poroth Farm," the protagonist is reading and re-reading those works in preparation for a course he'll be giving.

Editat: set. 12, 2012, 11:06am

> 16: If actually handled the way I described: it's still shabby research - Ph.D. or not. Delve into the archives, try to find out if there are things HPL missed - just saying.

Never mind though. It doesn't really affect the stories.

P.s.: Interesting though: from The Ceremonies I got the impression the protagonist as working on his thesis - not just preparing for some class. But again, that's an aside (and it has been several years, so I might remember incorrectly). But anyway: It doesn't involve "The black man with the horn" directly.

Editat: set. 12, 2012, 5:43pm

>15 Nicole_VanK:-17

If you listen to the podcast, at approx. the 12:42 mark, Klein explains about his own experience with the gothic lit that plays a part in "Poroth Farm"/The Ceremonies.

Also, Supernatural Horror in Literature was still a rather obscure work when Klein's stories were written decades ago, and most of the authors and stories discussed in it were even more unknown to most readers. It was hard to get, unless you got lucky enough to maybe find the Jove edition in a good bookstore somewhere. It's hard to think of a better historical blueprint for a 1970s/1980's "gothic" scholar to follow than that!

Editat: set. 12, 2012, 12:22pm

> 17

My points were that a) Klein was no stranger to academic practice, and b) I understood it (in "Poroth Farm" leastwise, not having read The Ceremonies) as class prep, not research.

ETA: I never got the impression that the protagonist of "Poroth Farm" was a very accomplished scholar. He seemed like the sort of fellow who has always been in school because he couldn't muster any will to do something else.

set. 12, 2012, 12:31pm

This is one of the finest Mythos tales I've ever read. What was most fascinating to me aesthtically was the way the novella refutes HPL's thesis that a weird tale cannot be personal and be effective. Klein tells a very personal and poignant tale here while still very effectively delivering the weird fiction goods; this is as riveting and scary as anything Lovecraft ever wrote.

The narrator (pretty sure he's unnamed, PA) is based on Long - in Icons of Horror and the Supernatural, S.T. Joshi (whom I think we can all agree is a pretty reliable source on the subject) writes that he (the narrator ) is "clearly modeled upon Frank Belknap Long, with whom Klein was well acquainted":

For me, the best scene in the tale is where the narrator is reading the transcript of the deleted scene from the documentary:

BOY: No horn. Is no horn. (Weeps) Is him.

Fuck, that's fuckin' creepy.


Does anyone know the title of the John Coltrane album the narrator references (or is it just something Klein made up)?

set. 12, 2012, 1:12pm

>8 paradoxosalpha:

If the Necronomicon actually existed, it would probably be out in paperback with a preface by Colin Wilson.

Does it really say that in yours? In the version I have (in the mmpb of Dark Gods), it's "...with a preface by Lin Carter."

>13 KentonSem:

I think most of his weird output can be found in The Ceremonies and Dark Gods.

Both of which I own. Hurray for me! :D

Editat: set. 12, 2012, 1:18pm

> 21

It does say Colin Wilson in mine: Cthulhu 2000 (Arkham House 1995).

I have a certain fondness for Lin Carter, but his Necronomicon pastiches do not much endear.

set. 12, 2012, 1:28pm

>22 paradoxosalpha:

Interesting. He must have revised it for Cthulhu 2000 (unsurprisingly, as he revised The Events at Poroth Farm an amazing four times, according to Wikipedia (

set. 12, 2012, 2:22pm

> 23

So he was referencing the Skoob 1993 edition!

set. 12, 2012, 2:39pm

Please excuse me chiming in late: I just got back from having some stitches removed.

I too had only read Klein's Poroth Farm before this one. I think the understatement and elliptical references of this story are a welcome contrast to the usual Weird Tale.

It is interesting and effective to have such a story begin with farce (the spilled dinner and barf bag): the narrator is a schlamazel, not a hero. He does not pull anything out of a hat at the last moment. Furthermore, he is a writer who is resentful of being labelled as a disciple of HPL. The Anxiety of Influence?

So what did Mortimer do to warrant his pursuit and destruction? He did say that he did not steal the jewels from an idol. Did he offend the Old Ones by his preaching? Violate taboo by being there at all? Or did the Tcho-tcho do that to all visitors out of generic orneriness? Same question for the narrator: will he be killed because he acquired secret knowledge?

set. 12, 2012, 6:37pm

>24 paradoxosalpha:

Yeah, apparently so. He probably saw that very edition and said, "Hey! That works even better than the one I invented!" (I'm sure Klein appreciated the extra dash of verisimilitude that that would add to the story as well.)

>25 bertilak:

So what did Mortimer do to warrant his pursuit and destruction? He did say that he did not steal the jewels from an idol. Did he offend the Old Ones by his preaching? Violate taboo by being there at all? Or did the Tcho-tcho do that to all visitors out of generic orneriness? Same question for the narrator: will he be killed because he acquired secret knowledge?

I took it kind of like they (the missonary and the narrator) were like guys that had seen a mob hit and/or were investigating one - they "knew too much" and had to be "taken care of".

set. 13, 2012, 12:48pm

>20 artturnerjr:
For me the real shiver in the tale came early with the line "they'd - they'd grown something in him".

Overall, this is a successful weird tale with a number of interesting elements. The mythos almost requires a certain amount of interxtual references but this tale takes it to a new level. The horror writer, influenced by Lovecraft, has imaginary conversations with HPL while finding himself in a weird tale where it turns out one of Lovecraft's creations is real. As metafiction goes that's just few short steps before the eventual stories where Lovecraft himself is a character.

"Ah, Howard, your triumph was complete the moment your name became an adjective." is another great metafiction moment.

As mentioned in 11 the theme of race is also striking. On the one hand we have frequent references to minority characters, "blacks and Latins" on a part bench, a group giggling in the museum, one close to a group of white tourists. They're often associated with some negative emotion - evidence that the narrator should move to a different neighborhood, something to be hurried away from, or concern that a guard didn't notice them. But nothing ever comes of those instances. They're at most red herrings. Combined with the line about preferring the fear, we've got an older person struggling with their own and their family's prejudices. On the other hand, we have the standard pulp trope about some exotic and foreign tribe hunting down seemingly innocent white characters with mysterious means.

Thanks for putting this one up for discussion. I tend to shy away from modern horror and would have missed this worthwhile piece otherwise.

Editat: set. 13, 2012, 1:29pm

>27 lucien:

Other than the obvious reference to HPL's racism, the various blacks in Klein's story reminded me of 'the Negro' in Mr. Sammler's Planet: someone whose culture is incommensurable with the narrator's, who thereby seems menacing due to being unpredictable if for no other reason. Then the narrator encounters something far more other ...

Has anybody verified the various HPL quotes in the story? It is plausible that they are authentic, but Klein might have slipped a few ringers in.

set. 17, 2012, 9:50pm

>20 artturnerjr: I wouldn't say it's as weird and creepy as anything Lovecraft wrote. (Though I agree there are some nicely subtle touches and enigmas here.) But I do really appreciate the personal elements of a man nearing the end of his life who finds out that not only has he been professionally overshadowed by HPL but is even going to die like one of HPL's doomed protagonists.

I liked his constant dialogue with Lovecraft on airplanes, having a personal library, why Lovecraft grew to hate New York City, and, of course, race.

>28 bertilak: They seem credible, but it might be interesting check. Time-consuming, though, to manually search through Lovecraft's Selected Letters.

Incidentally, the line "Ah, Howard, your triumph was complete the moment your name became an adjective." Is used in A Reader'sGuide to Fantasy.

jul. 10, 2016, 5:03pm

>8 paradoxosalpha:

The George Hay Necronomicon, in its first UK printing (Neville Spearman, 1978), does have an introduction by Colin Wilson.

>20 artturnerjr:

I couldn't find a matching Coltrane LP cover. I wonder if the inspiration for the image is actually Sonny Rollins' silhouette on Saxophone Colossus?

I was actually a little disappointed when I first read this story, probably because its reputation as one of the finest modern Mythos stories raised my expectations a bit too high. Plus, the only other Klein story I'd read was "The Events at Poroth Farm" which might well be his best story - the entry by "D.H." in The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural makes that assertion anyway (and yes, I know to approach that book with due caution re. statements of fact).

I re-reread it because I got hold of a (very battered) copy of Dark Gods. Reading it after the first two novellas gave me a better feel for Klein's "voice" (something I needed to read Poe, too: I didn't really "get" him until I worked through a collected edition of his fiction, including the philosophical dialogues and the not-always-funny humorous pieces. That gave me the context in which to read the works for which he's famous). Of course I knew what to expect this time, too.

One thing that wasn't touched on in the discussion four years ago, is that the narrator is old and death, in some shape or form, is coming for him anyway. There's a sense throughout the narrative of a man losing his place in the world, having outlived his time. And there's an irony there (not the only one in this story, or in the stories in this collection. Klein's universe seems to be one of ironies and cosmic jokes at least as much as one of terror and cosmic indifference) because it's yet another way in which the narrator is following in Lovecraft's footsteps: although he died in his mid-forties he was "Grandpa" for most (if not all?) of his adult life.

jul. 10, 2016, 6:04pm

>30 housefulofpaper:

I couldn't find a matching Coltrane LP cover. I wonder if the inspiration for the image is actually Sonny Rollins' silhouette on Saxophone Colossus?

Yeah, I can't either. I just looked at the Coltrane discography over at Discogs*, which displays over 400 (!) Trane album covers, and none of them seem to match Klein's description ("Coltrane stood silhouetted against a tropical sunset, his featured obscured, head tilted back, saxophone blaring silently beneath the crimson sky.") Perhaps it's a conflation of Interstellar Space...

...and Monk / Trane:

Or maybe it's just some ultra-obscure bootleg that only Klein and a few others have seen.


jul. 10, 2016, 10:24pm

Don't know if Klein was referencing a specific Coltrane LP, but I just came across what I hope pans out to be some very good news indeed:

jul. 10, 2016, 10:35pm

>32 KentonSem:

Hurray! 8)

gen. 18, 2020, 4:06pm

Hello all, I was hoping if you could clarify this (excellent) story, which I just read last night. The eponymous Black Man with a Horn - is this one deity/entity which reappears, or is this just a kind of creature which the Tcho-Tcho are able to grow and use to kill people?

Also not really related to BMWAH but to another story in Klein's collection, I would be interested to hear what anyone who has read Children of the Kingdom thinks is implied by the last couple of paragraphs of that story.

I enjoy Klein's writing very much, and think it is very regrettable he is not more prolific.

gen. 19, 2020, 2:12pm

>34 cd96:

I haven't read this story since 2012 so my memory of the details are a bit hazy. However I think it's generally accepted that the Black Man is to be understood as an avatar of Nyarlathotep, who does of course appear and reappear in various guises in fiction from HPL himself and writers who have followed him and added to the Mythos.

Re. "Children of the Kingdom", I did manage to retrieve my copy of Dark Gods from its box (no room to put my paperbacks out on display, sadly). My understanding is the end of the story emphasises that the subterraneans who emerged and rampaged during the blackout are still around, and everywhere. In fact the three epigrams at the start of the story can be taken as providing the "moral" of the story - it's what an epigram is usually for of course: an intriguing little quote to introduce a story, which is given a lot more significance and weight after reading the story.

gen. 19, 2020, 2:31pm

The Black Man's role seems a little confusing to me then, when compared to the Tcho-Tcho's ability to "grow things" - which action is due to the actions of the Tcho-Tcho and which are due to the agency of the Black Man as its own entity.

For Children of the Kingdom, that is what I inferred also, but was a little confused by the significance of the creature in the sewer staring at the protagonist who clearly is supposed to be Father Pistachio, either he was 'converted' to their side or he was always one of them - for me it is very unclear.

I think Dark Gods is a fantastic collection and I finished Nadelman's God today - thought it was excellent.

gen. 19, 2020, 8:41pm

>36 cd96:

Sorry, as I said, I've forgotten a lot of the detail of the stories. I can offer a couple of ideas, all the same.

In weird fiction it's pretty normal for a god to manifest itself only after a priest or acolytes perform a particular ceremony or go through a set of actions. Not just in fiction either, but in traditional religions, Renaissance neo-platonic magic, etc.

The creatures in "Children of the Kingdom" are based on the "little people" that Arthur Machen wrote about, and they in turn were in essence a conflation of 19th century theories about a prehistoric race living in Britain that was driven underground by later waves of migration, with traditional ideas of "Faerie" - the malevolent, child abducting, changeling-leaving fairies. It's a feature of Machen's fiction about them that they seduce, or they attack, girls in the Welsh countryside and father children on them. These children are odd/different and in at least one story, exhibit strange powers and a kind of race memory. Father Pistachio, assuming that is him in the sewer, could be Klein using that idea...if his unorthodox religious ideas were prompted by subconscious memories of which he is now aware, and he has also physically changed (a human body that is unstable and malleable (think William Hurt at the climax of Altered States) was a theme Machen returned to in his fiction, always with something like religious horror).

I should caveat the foregoing - i haven't re-read the stories and so there could be something in there to falsify the suggestions I've put forward.

gen. 20, 2020, 4:48pm

Thank you for the explanation - this seems accurate. I've only just started reading Weird fiction in the last 12 months or so but have read a few of Machen's stories and now that you have suggested it I can definitely see parallels between the events of Children of the Kingdom and Machen's Novel of the Black Seal. I haven't yet read Altered States but it is on my Amazon list (I think after seeing it mentioned in another DO thread once upon a time?). For me Klein is one of the masters of horror, how even if I don't fully understand what is ostensibly occurring there is a pervasive dread and oppressive atmosphere (such as in Barron, Langan, Kiernan and others).

I lurk the DO threads of stories I am currently reading but unfortunately do not really consider myself to offer any kind of quality discussion on these kinds of stories!

gen. 20, 2020, 8:54pm

Lurking is a gateway drug to Deep Ones discussions. Let it happen.