Lovecraft’s “Medusa’s Coil”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1930?, written in 1930, published in 1939)

Reason deserted me altogether, and before I knew what I was doing I drew my automatic and sent a shower of twelve steel-jacketed bullets through the shocking canvas. The whole thing at once fell to pieces, even the frame toppling from the easel and clattering to the dust-covered floor. But though this horror was shattered, another had risen before me in the form of de Russy himself, whose maddened shrieks as he saw the picture vanish were almost as terrible as the picture itself had been.


This description of the narrator’s pistol is rather more technical and specific about the type of gun than is usual for H.P. Lovecraft, who ghost-wrote this story for Zealia Bishop. Continue reading “Lovecraft’s “Medusa’s Coil””

Tactical Shooting: The Veteran

If he’s gonna play with guns, he should learn how to use one.

– Robert Miller in The Veteran (2011)


Matthew Hope’s The Veteran (2011) is about a former British Army Paratrooper who has recently returned from Afghanistan. Robert Miller (Toby Kebbell) suffers from PTSD and drifts through his days until he is hired by a secretive government official to track a suspected terrorist cell. Eventually realising he has been duped, he goes vigilante and tries to save his love interest from a violent drug gang that terrorises the South London estate at which he has been living. Overall the film tries too hard; the connection between the government conspiracy and the thugs is tenuous and the underlying worldview simplistic. However, many of the details are ace, including Miller’s tradecraft and the various altercations.

The Veteran was released too late to include it in GURPS Tactical Shooting, but with minor allowances it would have been a good fit. As Miller clears an entire estate of criminals, he eventually ends up in a high-rise, with a final shootout in an Eighth Floor hallway. Here is how that scene would play out in GURPS.


Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS. Continue reading “Tactical Shooting: The Veteran”

Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1926, written in 1926, published in 1927)

He drew a revolver and motioned me to silence, then stepped out into the main cellar and closed the door behind him … After that followed a sharp grating noise, a shouted gibberish from Pickman, and the deafening discharge of all six chambers of a revolver, fired spectacularly as a lion-tamer might fire in the air for effect. A muffled squeal or squawk, and a thud. Then more wood and brick grating, a pause, and the opening of the door – at which I’ll confess I started violently. Pickman reappeared with his smoking weapon, cursing the bloated rats that infested the ancient well.


We can assume from the fact that Richard Pickman was an artist and an urbanite that he carried the weapon concealed, and from this that it was probably a small pocket revolver. It was most likely not a .22-calibre weapon, since most of the pocket revolvers in that calibre had seven rather than six chambers at the time. That suggests a revolver in .32- or .38-calibre, most likely a Colt, since most other pocket offerings in those calibres had only five chambers. It was almost certainly a double-action gun due to the timeframe and of course the quick rate of fire.

1906_Colt Pocket Positive

Continue reading “Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model””

Tactical Shooting: Miami Vice

They just hit him!

‒ Stan Switek in Miami Vice #1.4 (1984)

Growing up in the 1980s, one of the few telly series that made at least an effort to portray realistic combat was Miami Vice (1984-1990). In hindsight there is much to criticise, but back then it was an eye-opener in many ways, and that is even without accounting for the story-telling and the score! For example, they included cutting-edge, often gunsmithed weaponry, starting with Sonny Crockett’s D&D Bren Ten pistol in 10×25mm and Ricardo Tubbs’ cut-down Ithaca Model 37 shotgun (GURPS High-Tech, p. 105).

SD_TS_Miami Vice Continue reading “Tactical Shooting: Miami Vice”

Lovecraft’s “The Temple”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1917, written in 1920, published in 1925)

As the men grew more frightened at this undersea imprisonment, some of them began to mutter again about Lieut. Klenze’s ivory image, but the sight of an automatic pistol calmed them … I shot all six men, for it was necessary, and made sure that none remained alive.


The issue pistol of the Kaiserliche Marine in 1917 was indeed an “automatic pistol,” specifically the DWM-Luger P.04 (Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, pp. 45-46) in 9×19mm Parabellum. Compared to the better-known DWM-Luger P.08, this has a longer 15-cm (6”) barrel and, at least in the early production models, a grip safety. Although generally issued with a detachable wooden shoulder stock and thus capable of being used as a pistol-carbine topside, navy officers usually wore it in a closed belt holster without the stock.

SD_The Temple_Luger Continue reading “Lovecraft’s “The Temple””

Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set partly in 1907, written in 1926, published in 1928)

Duty came first; and although there must have been nearly a hundred mongrel celebrants in the throng, the police relied on their firearms and plunged determinedly into the nauseous rout. For five minutes the resultant din and chaos were beyond description. Wild blows were struck, shots were fired, and escapes were made; but in the end Legrasse was able to count some forty-seven sullen prisoners, whom he forced to dress in haste and fall into line between two rows of policemen. Five of the worshippers lay dead, and two severely wounded ones were carried away on improvised stretchers by their fellow-prisoners.


The service sidearm of the New Orleans Police Department in 1907 was the Colt New Police double-action revolver with 10-cm (4”) barrel, chambered for the .32 S&W Long (7.9×23mmR) cartridge. This was carried by the men led by Inspector John Legrasse. Considering its wimpy calibre, the 20 officers probably also brought some sawn-off shotguns (Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, p. 76) and/or Winchester lever-action repeating carbines (Investigator Weapons 1, p. 75) to reinforce their argument. Both types were widely used by American police forces at the time.

SD_Call of Cthulhu_Colt New Police

Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns

I put out the light and used the windows for loopholes, and raked all around the house with rifle fire aimed just high enough not to hit the dogs. That seemed to end the business, but in the morning I found great pools of blood in the yard, beside pools of a green sticky stuff that had the worst odour I have ever smelled.

‒ H.P. Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness (1930)

It is an article of faith among many Keepers and players of Call of Cthulhu and other games inspired by H.P. Lovecraft that combat and use of guns is un-Lovecraftian.

Lovecraft expert and Call of Cthulhu grognard Kenneth Hite calls gaming with action “pulp” and that without it “purist” (Trail of Cthulhu, p. 7), terminology that has since gained wider currency. The latter term is an unfortunate choice, as it implies that a game without action is purer or more Lovecraftian. Hite’s postulation is that “in the Purist mode, firearms are discouraged” (Trail of Cthulhu, p. 66). However, he actually observes that Lovecraft himself has written many pulp stories or those that feature both themes (Trail of Cthulhu, p. 7). I have shown elsewhere that many of Lovecraft’s stories feature firearms, even some of those that Hite calls “purist” ‒ especially The Whisperer in Darkness, which actually contains the only real gunfight in all of Lovecraft’s oeuvre!

Shooting Dice_LOVECRAFT’S INVESTIGATORS AND THEIR GUNS Continue reading “Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns”

Martial Arts: Sherlock

I’m a doctor, I know how to sprain people.

– John Watson in Sherlock #3.3 (2014)

I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and the modern retelling offered by the BBC’s Sherlock (2010-) is great. I am not too keen on the actual stories, but the chemistry between the main characters, all of them great actors, is brilliant, as are many of the details. The following scene from the episode “His Last Vow” (Sherlock #3.3) shows an often underplayed side of Dr John Watson. The good doctor has always been a man of action, but he is seldom allowed to prove it in the various dramatizations. In this brief but hilariously funny scene we are reminded that Watson is a former British Army Captain with three years’ service in Afghanistan. The specifics warrant a detailed analysis in GURPS terms.

This article is part of the Melee Academy.

Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

IMG_4962 Continue reading “Martial Arts: Sherlock”

Martial Arts: The Maltese Falcon

Why did you strike me after I was disarmed?

– Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon (1930)

The Maltese Falcon (1930) is one of the best of Dashiell Hammett’s novels. It follows private eye Sam Spade in San Francisco as he unravels the mystery of the Maltese Falcon, a jewel-encrusted gold statuette of immeasurable worth. As is typical in a Hammett story, he has to play off several parties against one other to emerge unharmed, if not victorious.

The novel has been made into a motion picture several times, the best rendition being of course the third one by John Huston. His Film Noir classic The Maltese Falcon (1941) boasts, among others, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo, one of the shady characters who are after the Falcon.

IMG_4911 Continue reading “Martial Arts: The Maltese Falcon”