Sardonic Tales: “The Lesser Keys”

A few years ago, I did a thing where I picked a movie that would make a good double-feature with one of the stories in my then-newest collection, Painted Monsters. This year, for the Countdown to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing, but with my now-newest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

“The Lesser Keys” was written for a collection of novellas and novelettes set in the Roaring ’20s called Jazz Age Cthulhu. I did a bunch of research to try to bring to life a Lovecraftian version of 1920s Kansas City, when this place was still called the “Paris of the Plains.”

A lot of what went into “The Lesser Keys” owes its origins to that research, and to wandering around Kansas City itself, and to the writing of folks like Dashiell Hammett. To whit, probably the best movie to do as a double-feature with this story is a genuine noir film from the ’30s or ’40s–say one of the various Thin Man movies that were adapted from Hammett’s own work.

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That said, I’d be hard pressed to pick a single one to pair with “The Lesser Keys,” so here’s another possibility: Another story that combines hard-boiled aesthetics with Lovecraftian occult trappings, albeit this time to more comedic effect: The overworked, underseen, and frequently problematic Cast a Deadly Spell.

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