The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham by Brian Keene & Nick Mamatas

Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas answer a question no one ever thought to ask with The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham. What if Hunter S. Thompson, instead of joining the campaign trail during the 1972 presidential primaries, traveled to the fictional town of Arkham, MA, where he experienced the horrors H.P. Lovecraft described in his writing?
I’m honestly a bit sad that I didn’t know about this book when it was originally released ten years ago. The cover art for that edition is definitely superior and so perfectly captures the blend of cosmic horror and gonzo journalism one is destined to find if they crack the spine and open this book. When I say they’ve perfectly captured this blend of otherwise disparate things, I’m not joking. The Thompson pastiche doesn’t come across as being satirical or heavy-handed. As someone who’s read essentially everything Thompson had published, the style is unmistakable…and these two authors nailed it, including the unrelenting disdain for Nixon. I’ve never read any other work from Mamatas, though I’ve always sort of intended to (it just falls by the wayside). but I’ve enjoyed a good number of Keene’s books in the past, and nothing from his other work mimicked the style and texture of another author in this way.
Feeling as if he’s going to be crushed under the weight of both snow and an endless barrage of unwanted fan letters, our eminently unreliable narrator determines that he needs to escape from his Colorado compound. He can’t go West. That’s where all of this awfulness began. Instead, he chooses to go all the way in the opposite direction. Looking at the map on the bus station wall, he picks Arkham as his destination. A short while later, he’s waiting for the bus to arrive as an ethereal tentacle caresses his leg….and you can sort of guess where it goes from there.
The biggest difference between this fictionalized version of Hunter S. Thompson and the traditional Lovecraft narrators is the capacity to take in stride things that should drive any sane man mad. The moral of the story is that when you’re never quite sure that a thing you’re seeing isn’t just another hallucinatory episode brought on by the surplus of illicit substances you’ve carried with you, it’s far easier to cope with unearthly horrors. In that sense, it could be argued that there would be no better guide into the realm of eldritch horrors. It could be argued that a man with Thompson’s psychology is uniquely suited to document this descent into the unknown.
This is an odd book in so many ways, but it’s equal parts amusing and horrifying; it’s disturbing in both its depiction of cosmic horrors and the antisocial, drug-addled mind of our protagonist.

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