Derleth’s “The Survivor”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1930, published in 1954)

The events of that night, though not frightening me too badly, did result in my purchasing a powerful Luger pistol in a second-hand shop, as well as a new flashlight; the lamp had impeded me in the night, which a flashlight would not do in similar circumstances … What I saw was incredible, horrible. It was not a man who stood there, but a travesty of a man. I know that for one cataclysmic moment I though consciousness would leave me; but a sense of urgency coupled with an awareness of acute danger swept over me, and without a moment’s hesitation, I fired four times, at such range that I knew each shot had found harbor in the body of the bestial thing that leaned over Dr. Charriere’s desk in that darkened study.


While “The Survivor” has most likely been entirely written by August Derleth, despite his own claims of posthumous cooperation with H.P. Lovecraft, the story is nevertheless in the Lovecraftian mould. Furthermore, Derleth’s work is obviously a heavy influence for Call of Cthulhu. As one of Derleth’s better efforts, I feel fully justified to cover this here as well.

When antiquarian Alijah Atwood bought his “powerful Luger pistol” in 1930, the type was already a household name in America. Luger pistols (Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, pp. 45-46) had been imported by the thousands since 1901, both in 7.65×21mm Parabellum (.30 Luger) and 9×19mm Parabellum. These were generally sold before the Great War under the name American Eagle. Troops returning from the war brought back former German military sidearms including the Luger P.04, P.08, and l.P.08. From 1923, large numbers of commercial Lugers were imported by companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Pacific Arms Corp, and Alexander Stoeger (Investigator Weapons 1, p. 25). While new Luger pistols would sell in 1930 for $25 and more, used, reconditioned P.08s from the war could often be had for $15.


We also learn from this story that four bullets from a pistol (Damage 1D10) can kill a member of the Serpent People (Call of Cthulhu, Sixth Edition, pp. 170-171, and Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, pp. 303-304), easily penetrating their scales (Armour Value 1, average Hit Points 11).