Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Thorp McClusky’s Loot of the Vampire

Thorp McClusky’s short novel Loot of the Vampire was published in two parts in Weird Tales in 1936. It’s a vampire story in a contemporary big-city American setting.

Thorp McClusky (1906-1975) is a rather obscure American writer whose works appeared in pulp magazines in the 1930s.

It begins with a jewel robbery. The jeweller has been discussing the sale of a very valuable string of pearls to a European nobleman. The jeweller is found dead and the pearls are gone. The strange thing is that there’s no obvious way the killer could have made his escape.

Even more curious is the fact that the jeweller seemed to be suffering from a very serious case of anaemia. It’s almost as if there’s no blood at all in the body.

Then on the following day the dead jeweller turns up at the jewellery story, very much alive. The police commissioner and Detective-Lieutenant Peters are both puzzled and alarmed.

They do have a suspect, a Count Woertz. The count is about to hold a mind-reading session at a swank charity party. Lieutenant Peters poses as a guy wanting to have his mind read and discovers, to his consternation, that the count really can read minds.

Peters has an interest in the occult and he wonders if possibly they’re dealing with a vampire.

There’s no solid evidence against the count and the police commissioner has another problem. He’s in love with a sweet girl named Mary. They’re going to be married. The count has threatened to steal Mary away from the commissioner and the big worry is that he may be able to do just that by using some form of mind control.

There’s not much more than this to the plot. There are a couple of slightly creepy moments. There’s no action to speak of. There’s no reign of terror carried out by the vampire.

And to be honest there’s not much suspense. We don’t get enough of a sense that Mary is in real danger, and we don’t get enough of the feeling that the natural order is being threatened and that’s something I consider to be an essential element in supernatural horror.

The sea chase is the highlight and it’s not too badly done.

The vampire in this tale conforms to some of the rules of established vampire lore as it stood at the time, but not all. This vampire cannot tolerate sunlight but on the other hand he’s totally indifferent to garlic. The mirror stuff is an interesting variation on the usual idea. I like vampire stories that vary the rules a bit.

Loot of the Vampire is OK but it doesn’t quite deliver the goods. It’s recommended purely for its historical interest and its curiosity value.

Armchair Fiction have paired this novel with The Man Who Made Maniacs in one of their excellent two-novel paperback editions.

This story seems to belong to a very short-lived 1930s genre, the weird detective story. These were basically hardboiled detective stories with some supernatural and horror elements added for extra spice. That’s actually a promising combination.

If the weird detective story genre attracts you then you should check out Off-Trail Publications’ volume Cult of the Corpses which includes two novellas of this type by Maxwell Hawkins and they’re both far superior to Loot of the Vampire.

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