A Few Words on
“The Devil’s Tongue of Blue John Gap”

by Derrick Belanger

“The Terror of Blue John Gap,” like “The Horror of the Heights,” became one of my all-time favorite stories. The plot is told through a series of journal entries by Dr. James Hardcastle, and it explains his mysterious encounter with a subterranean creature living in the caverns of Blue John Gap. Like many of Lovecraft’s protagonists at the end of a strange tale, one is never sure if Hardcastle truly experienced the events of the story or if the entire occurrence was a horrid hallucination from someone with a touch of madness. It is that ambiguous ending that drew me to the story, one that I have read and continue to read at least once a year.

Jump ahead over thirty years, and we come to a pre-pandemic 2019. I was assembling a first-of-its-kind anthology taking August Derleth’s Solar Pons, the Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street, and pitting him against the monsters from Derleth’s Lovecraftian tales. It was titled The Necronomicon of Solar Pons. This book was mainly a tribute to August Derleth’s detective and weird fiction.

Derleth had created his Arkham House publishing company to keep the writings of Lovecraft in print and to keep publishing weird fiction in the Lovecraftian vein. Had “The Terror of Blue John Gap” been written thirty years later, it could have easily fit into an Arkham House anthology. Even though Derleth reprinted much of Lovecraft’s work, he has been criticized for making his own fiction, sometimes referred to as the Derleth mythos, much more about good versus evil than Lovecraft ever intended. However, if Derleth hadn’t reprinted Lovecraft’s work, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century may have been forgotten. I emphasized that battle of good versus evil in my own story for The Necronomicon of Solar Pons.

For my contribution to the anthology, I wanted to write a weird fiction tale that connected Solar Pons not only to Lovecraft, but also to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I went ahead and started plotting the tale with the intention of connecting the story to “The Horror of the Heights.” The more I plotted away, though, the more it became abundantly clear that my story was a much better fit with “The Terror of Blue John Gap.”

After working and reworking the tale, the story ended up taking place only tangentially connected to Doyle’s story. Though it is still a direct sequel to the original “The Terror of Blue John Gap,” the Lovecraftian writings of Derleth play a much more prominent role. I had my own idea for what was lurking in the caves of Blue John Gap, a much more sinister monster than that revealed by Hardcastle. Purists may scoff at my story’s conclusion; still, I think most fans of the source material will enjoy this strange novella, and see it for what it is – a love letter to Doyle and Derleth’s weird fiction.

Derrick Belanger
February 2, 2022

P.S. – I would be remiss without taking a moment to thank the estate of August Derleth for granting me permission to write and publish this tale using the Solar Pons character. It is through the generous permission of the estate that my publishing company, Belanger Books, was able to publish The Necronomicon of Solar Pons as well as all of the original August Derleth Solar Pons adventures.