DEAD LETTER PRESS has a knack for unearthing lost treasures of the horror genre from long forgotten tombs, adorning them with vibrant new cover art by the great Allen Koszowski, and making them available for whole new generations to enjoy. IN THE DWELLINGS OF THE WILDERNESS, a short novel by C. Bryson Taylor originally published in 1904, is one such reintroduced classic.
The book begins with an excellent introduction by Tom English giving background on the novel which had fallen into virtual obscurity and the writer, C. Bryson Taylor, who was likely in her early twenties when she penned the tale. I always enjoy such insights into the history of a tale.
The story follows a group of American archeologists in Egypt to excavate an ancient tomb. Ignoring inscriptions inside warning against breaching a sealed inner chamber, they plunge forward, discovering the mummy of a woman who appears may have been walled-in while still alive. A mishap traps one of the archeologists in the chamber alone with the mummy, where he thinks he sees it move. He collapses shortly after being freed, and the next day the mummy has mysteriously vanished. In the days that follow, some of the men begin to disappear into the vast desert and an evil presence sinks through the encampment at night. The creeping dread as to the fate of those drawn into the waste by a creature they unwittingly released keeps the stakes high throughout.
The horrors herein tend more toward the subtle variety than most monster stories, which is generally how I prefer it. My one knock against it would be the author’s attempts to convey the dialect of the local worker Ibraheem by spelling out his dialog phonetically, but since he’s not a primary character, it doesn’t occur too often. One of my favorite scenes was when one of the men has a disturbing, surreal vision of the mummy as the alluring beauty she was in life just before she transforms into a withered husk in his arms. So, if you’re interested in reading a classic mummy horror tale, IN THE DWELLINGS OF THE WILDERNESS, is well worth a read.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan