When Arkham is captivated by a gifted artist, the walls between reality and fantasy break down, and who knows what terrors lurk beyond those walls… introducing our second Arkham Horror novel: The Last Ritual by S A Sidor, which paints a terrifying picture worldwide in August 2020. It’s time for the full synopsis, beautiful Great Gatsbyesque deco cover art and a few telling questions for author S A Sidor.
Aspiring painter Alden Oakes is invited to join a mysterious art commune in Arkham: the New Colony. When celebrated Spanish surrealist Juan Hugo Balthazarr visits the colony, Alden and the other artists quickly fall under his charismatic spell. Balthazarr throws a string of decadent parties for Arkham’s social elite, conjuring arcane illusions which blur the boundaries between nightmare and reality. Only slowly does Alden come to suspect that Balthazarr’s mock rituals are intended to break through those walls and free what lies beyond. Alden must act, but it might already be too late to save himself, let alone Arkham.
…By genuine master of the surreal and wonderful, John Coulthart. We’re enormous fans of John, and he’s absolutely nailed this art deco-inspired occult cover for us. Just keep staring at it, the details are endless!
Your protagonist is a surrealist artist, which artists and/or paintings particularly inspired you?
I visited Salvador Dalí’s home in Portlligat on the Costa Brava in Catalonia, Spain two summers ago. What struck me was how Dali’s vision of the world extended past his paintings and other artwork to encompass a whole way of seeing life. His outsized personality, reputation for self-promotion, and manipulations of “celebrity” were ahead of their time. He certainly was a jumping off point for Juan Hugo Balthazarr in The Last Ritual. André Breton, in his 1924 manifesto, defined Surrealism: “Psychic automatism in its pure state… Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.” That sounds a bit Lovecraftian, doesn’t it?
What aspects of Lovecraftian lore feel most relevant to you as a writer?
I love the old tomes with peculiar names (Daemonolatreia of Remigius!) and the abysmal track record of all the characters that have tangled with the Ancient Ones and met their tragic fates. The search for forbidden knowledge is the best engine a storyteller has.
The Last Ritual features a strong Great Gatsby party vibe, what’s so horrific about the decadence of the social elite?
An ever-present sense of approaching, yet indefinable, doom hovers over the wild partying atmosphere of the Roaring Twenties. The Great War has ended. Some people are getting filthy rich. The elites look fantastically modern. They’re having the time of their lives, but something in them perceives, however vaguely, that it’s all about to come crashing down. The only question is when. Gatsby is a story about obsession. It depicts the shocking violence underpinning decadence, and a ripple of sadness runs through it all.
S A SIDOR is the author of four dark crime thrillers and more recently two splendid supernatural-pulp adventures, Fury From the Tomb and The Beast of Nightfall Lodge. He lives near Chicago with his family.
The Last Ritual is available worldwide for pre-order from major retailers now: