“They say foul things of Old Times still lurk in dark forgotten
corners of the world. And Gates still gape to loose, on certain
nights, shapes pent in Hell.”
This is my favorite Robert E. Howard story, and in my opinion his best Lovecraftian one, so I was delighted when I heard that Dark Adventure Radio Theatre was doing an adaptation of it. Although a downloadable version was available earlier, the CD with props finally arrived just before the holiday weekend.
In The Black Stone, an unnamed first-person narrator, acquainted with von Junzt’s occult book, Unaussprechlichen Kulten*, as well as the mad poet Justin Geoffrey’s “People of the Monolith,” takes his vacation in the location where the Monolith, or Black Stone, stands; this is in the mountains of rural Hungary, on an open meadow plateau above a tiny village with the intriguing name of Stregoicavar: the Witch Village. The age of this mysterious stone object is disputed; some claim a fabulous antiquity and puzzle over the strange markings upon in.
At Stregoicavar, the protagonist not only examines the Black Stone for himself, but learns something about its true age, the barbaric rites performed there on Midsummer nights long ago, and the reason why Justin Geoffrey went mad after his visit here — more than he really wanted to know.
The HPL Historical Society takes this tale and builds upon it, adding the usual spirited period dialog to enliven the audio drama and bestowing upon the nameless hero not just a name, but a character which DART fans are already familiar with: Charlie Tower.
This is not, however, the millionaire playboy adventurer we know from The Whisperer in Darkness, Brotherhood of the Beast, and Dagon: War of the Worlds. He’s a younger man, freshly scarred and disenchanted by the earthly horrors of the first World War.
In the summer of 1919, young Charlie (played by Sean Branney) is hanging around Europe after the war in pursuit of various decadent pleasures. We find him in Berlin in a nightclub named Himmel und Hölle –Heaven & Hell — sipping champagne and chatting with an underaged Marlene Dietrich, when he hears a poet read Geoffrey’s “People of the Monolith.”