04 Feb 2013
by Jeffrey Thomas
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(Back cover art by the brilliant Santiago Caruso, interpreting Enoch Coffin.)
On February 19th, Dark Regions Press will begin taking orders for a new book I am immensely proud of — ENCOUNTERS WITH ENOCH COFFIN, a collection of short stories by myself and W. H. Pugmire. Wilum Pugmire has been a dear friend of mine ever since I illustrated a short story for him back in, oh, I guess it was 1992. (We’ve never met in person, but hope to rectify that at NecronomiCon, in Providence, this August.) Many people, myself among them, feel Pugmire is writing the best, most unique Lovecraftian fiction out there. Because I am so familiar with his work, I was able to get into a kind of mindset and style that — while not aping Pugmire’s own — at least complemented his work in such a way that our stories (six each) join into a harmonious whole. The stories all concern the titular artist, Enoch Coffin. Here’s the book’s back cover copy for a sense of what’s in store for the reader:
Enoch Coffin is a proud inhabitant of Massachusetts, an artist following in the footsteps of local legend Richard Upton Pickman. Coffin is an artist with a singular quest: to capture in paint, or ink, or clay — however he might — sights that no mortal has ever portrayed in art before…and lived to exhibit. His quest will take him throughout actual New England locations, and that other New England of H. P. Lovecraft, where his models will be doomed souls, ravening ghouls, and entities from beyond the veil.
Individually acclaimed for their weird fiction, in this collection of short stories authors W. H. Pugmire and Jeffrey Thomas collaborate to paint the portrait of a character every bit as fascinating and unique as the subjects of his artistic encounters.
Wilum approached me for this project largely because I myself am an artist, and he wanted me to bring that perspective. At first we weren’t sure how we would approach the collaboration — whether we would work on the same stories together, or write individual stories about Enoch. We settled quickly on the latter. As it turns out, my stories all take place in authentic New England locations (after all, I’m a Massachusetts native), while Wilum’s all take place in the fictional locations invented by Lovecraft (and, in one story, Wilum’s own milieu of Sesqua Valley). So my method came to work out this way: for each story I chose a different New England location (Boston, Salem, Maine, etc.), a different Lovecraft story or concept to riff from, and a different sort of artistic medium (oils, pen and ink, clay, etc.) for Enoch to utilize. Those elements became the colors on my pallet. And as Wilum and I wrote our stories, we shared them with each other, and thus developed a background for Enoch that became something haunting and poignant. I think he’s a fascinating character: sexy, sinister, amoral, obsessed. People are going to be quite taken with him.
(W. H. Pugmire.)
Cover art (front and back) is by the brilliant painter Santiago Caruso, while the highly detailed interiors (one for each story, plus a frontis) are by real-life Massachusetts artist Clint Leduc. With two writers and two artists, the book is a wonderful example of creative collaboration. It was absolutely one of the most fun and gratifying experiences I’ve ever had writing a book. And Wilum and I hope to write a novel about Enoch Coffin, further down the road. The encounters are not yet finished!
(Find out more about the book at the Dark Regions Press web site:)