Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1927-1928, written in 1931, published in 1936)

During the winter of 1927-28 officials of the Federal government made a strange and secret investigation of certain conditions in the ancient Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth. The public first learned of it in February, when a vast series of raids and arrests occurred, followed by the deliberate burning and dynamiting – under suitable precautions – of an enormous number of crumbling, worm-eaten, and supposedly empty houses along the abandoned waterfront … Only one paper – a tabloid always discounted because of its wild policy – mentioned the deep diving submarine that discharged torpedoes downward in the marine abyss just beyond Devil Reef.

 

While college student Robert Olmstead was not armed, he had a “handy three-in-one device including a screwdriver” on his key-ring. Lovecraft probably meant a flat combination tool that primarily serves as a bottle opener/cap lifter, but also has a flat screwdriver blade. These were common at the time. Alternatively he could mean a miniature pocket knife that would attach to a key-ring. Contemporary patterns usually had three blades; a bottle opener, a flat screwdriver, and a pen knife. The latter had a very short blade around 2.5-cm (1”) long that was intended for sharpening pencils and would be completely useless as a weapon.

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High-Tech: True Detective

Marty Hart: Holy shit. You visit a lot of gun shows?

Rust Cohle: Ah, it’s just some stuff I kept in case work came back to me.

     – True Detective #1.4 (set in 1995)

 

The first season of True Detective (2014) is an awesome piece of television and perfect as a template for Cthulhu Now, Delta Green, or GURPS Horror. Spanning 17 years, it follows two Louisiana State Police CID detectives, Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson), both men with serious personal issues, as they investigate a series of murders apparently perpetrated by an ages-old cult that worships the King in Yellow, Hastur the Unspeakable.

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Lovecraft’s “The Hound”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1922?, written in 1922, published in 1923)

Now, as the baying of that dead fleshless monstrosity grows louder and louder, and the stealthy whirring and flapping of those accursed web-wings closer and closer, I shall seek with my revolver the oblivion which is my only refuge from the unnamed and unnameable.

 

The unnamed investigator carried his revolver while travelling from England to Holland. This suggests an easily concealed pocket revolver rather than a big army weapon. In the 1920s, owning a handgun in Great Britain already required a firearm certificate (Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, pp. 21-22). All major foreign makes and many minor ones were imported and sold in British gun shops. However, a British-made revolver would perhaps be more likely. Possibilities include the Webley No.2 in .320 Centrefire (7.95×15mmR), the Webley Mk III in .320 Centrefire, the Webley WP in .380 Centrefire (9.1×18mmR), or even the Webley No.2 British Bull Dog in .450 Adams (11.5×17mmR).

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Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1928, written in 1928, published in 1929)

The thing that lay half-bent on its side in a foetid pool of greenish-yellow ichor and tarry stickiness was almost nine feet tall, and the dog had torn off all the clothing and some of the skin. It was not quite dead, but twitched silently and spasmodically while its chest heaved in monstrous unison with the mad piping of the expectant whippoorwills outside. Bits of shoe-leather and fragments of apparel were scattered about the room, and just inside the window an empty canvas sack lay where it had evidently been thrown. Near the central desk a revolver had fallen, a dented but undischarged cartridge later explaining why it had not been fired.

 

Wilbur Whateley was prominently armed with a revolver. Game author Keith Herber states it was a .38-calibre (H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich, p. 34), and while that is not an unreasonable deduction, there are certainly other options as well. It could be of any number of makes and models. However, we do have a few further clues. Wilbur Whateley first acquired a “pistol” in 1915, to protect himself against the dogs of his neighbours. At the time, the terms “pistol” and “revolver” were used almost interchangeably, so the earlier weapon was probably also a revolver.

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Gangster Gats: Purple Gang

During the 1920s, the Purple Gang ‒ several theories exist as to the origins of this colourful name ‒ was the most successful bootlegger outfit in Detroit, Michigan. By the late 1920s, they also contracted as hit men, a business move that would lead to the gang’s downfall in the early 1930s. By the late 1930s, many of its leaders were in prison, and its remaining members had switched trades to robbing safes. However, when their principal work car ‒ a supercharged, armoured Graham-Paige sedan with revolving license plates and a ramp to roll a safe inside ‒ was confiscated in 1936, they reverted to armed robberies and assassination.

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Tactical Shooting: Heat

Drop of a hat, these guys will rock and roll.

‒ Vincent Hanna in Heat (1995)

 

Michael Mann’s Heat (1995) was one of the most important inspirations for GURPS Tactical Shooting. The epic intertwined story of a gang of bank robbers and the LAPD detectives hunting them has everything that makes a film great ‒ compelling story, great actors,  articulate dialogue, awesome action, perfect music, cool props. Both the bank robbers led by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and the police detectives led by Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) display believable gun handling, with many scenes being excellent.

There are several high-profile gunfights in this motion picture, the most famous being of course the massive shootout in downtown Los Angeles. Although less spectacular, the gunfight in the Centinela drive-in theatre is also very interesting, since it showcases firing at and from moving cars. Here I examine how that would play out in GURPS. Watch just the scene here (the action starts at 0:39).

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Lovecraft’s “Herbert West ‒ Reanimator”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set partly in 1905, written in 1922, published in 1922)

[Herbert West] was clad in dressing-gown and slippers, and had in his hands a revolver and an electric flashlight. From the revolver I knew that he was thinking more of the crazed Italian than of the police. The rattling continued, growing somewhat louder. When we reached the door I cautiously unbolted it and threw it open, and as the moon streamed revealingly down on the form silhouetted there, West did a peculiar thing. Despite the obvious danger of attracting notice and bringing down on our heads the dreaded police investigation – a thing which after all was mercifully averted by the relative isolation of our cottage – my friend suddenly, excitedly, and unnecessarily emptied all six chambers of his revolver into the nocturnal visitor.

 

The handgun used by physician Dr Herbert West in 1905 was a revolver with six chambers. In addition, West fired all shots in rapid succession, which almost certainly means it was a double-action design. A number of suitable patterns were available at the time, but the larger military weapons are less likely. This suggests something like a Colt Double Action Constabulary Revolver in .32 Long Colt (7.9×23mmR), .38 Long Colt (9.2×26mmR), or .41 Long Colt (9.8×29mmR); a Colt New Police in .32 S&W Long (7.9×23mmR); a S&W Hand Ejector in .32 S&W Long; or a S&W Military & Police in .38 Special (9×29mmR) (Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, pp. 56-57).

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Gangster Gats: Fred “Killer” Burke

Fred “Killer” Burke (née Thomas Camp) was a bank robber and hit man. Originally with Egan’s Rats in St. Louis, Missouri, he contracted out to the Purple Gang of Detroit, Michigan, until he eventually became one of Al Capone’s American Boys in Chicago, Illinois. He is widely believed to have been one of the perpetrators of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a hit on George “Bugs” Moran (née Adelard Cunin) and his North Side Gang, in Chicago on 14-FEB-1929. Burke is the only one that could be positively linked to the massacre. This was done through the submachine guns that were found in a house owned by Burke in Stevensville, Michigan, on 14-DEC-1929. Burke himself was arrested in Milan, Missouri, on 26-MAR-1931.

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