The Outsiders is the latest publication from Joe Mynhardt's Crystal Lake Publishing and is a collection of five Lovecraft inspired stories written by five different authors set in a fictional gated community called Priory. Priory - and the characters inhabiting it - provides a framing device for the stories but the tales are linked even more closely with the narratives cross-referencing each other, the events of one mentioned in another, characters providing the major narrative thrust in some having cameo roles in others. It's a clever device and one which works extremely well, pulling the five stories together, providing a cohesive whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.
Mind you, the individual parts are pretty good too - the stories work extremely well in isolation but the linking device is a definite enhancement.
The collection opens with The Subprime from Gary Fry (which seems only appropriate - he's doing as much as anyone currently to expand the mythos and create a body of work which provides his own, very distinctive take on it). The story provides an introduction to Priory and its residents, in particular Mr Phillips (Harvey - not Howard) and the enigmatic Charles Erich (whose name will raise a smile for all those students of Proto-Norse linguistics), the community's founder. Phillips is a financier, the respectable face of tyranny as it were and the plot revolves around a crisis of conscience for one of his employees - Lee - who has decided that sacrificing his soul on the altar of capitalism is not for him and decides to tender his resignation. In an attempt to change the young man's mind, Phillips invites him to a dinner party at Priory where it turns out that some sacrifices are actually easier to make than others.
James Everington provides the next story, Impossible Colours which takes the bold step of tackling the subject of Lovecraft's perceived racism. As might be expected from the author, it's done in a subtle, tangential way and very effectively so that the message in no way diminishes the impact, and enjoyment of the story.
Stolen From the Sea is by Stephen Bacon and uses the tragedy of the loss of a child to bring about an awakening in the father as to the true nature of the cult to which he and his wife belong. The cult that is the connecting force within Priory, binding all its residents together. There are few better writers than Stephen at approaching sensitive, sad issues like this (you should read Husks in the Murmurations anthology if further proof is needed) but this is just a starting point for a tense and dramatic escape story.
V H Leslie provides Precious Things, an examination of the deteriorating relationship between two elderly residents of Priory which showcases her trademark skills at story construction and clever wordplay.
The final story is Rosanne Rabinowitz's Meat, Motion and Light which - like James Everington's story - takes the racism issue as its starting point, the story's protagonist a black woman returning to Priory after having escaped its clutches. (Those clutches being undoubtedly tentacular). The old adage of "you can never go home" of course holds true here and things - as might be expected - go horribly wrong. I could be mistaken, but this could be the first story ever to feature a Great Old Ones sex scene. Spectacular love craft indeed.
The Outsiders is a very good book. Five strong stories which provide an excellent homage to Lovecraft and the mythology which is his legacy. Strong enough individually, the stories combine to create something truly special. It's a book I recommend highly and you can buy it here.