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Our Lady of Darkness

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,884 ratings  ·  222 reviews
Middle-aged San Francisco horror writer Franz Westen is rediscovering ordinary life following a long alcoholic binge. Then one day, peering at his apartment window from atop a nearby hill, he sees a pale brown thing lean out his window…and wave.

This encounter sends Westen on a quest through ancient books and modern streets, for the dark forces and paramental entities th
Kindle Edition, 221 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (first published February 1977)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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Bill Kerwin

Although I love Conjure Wife more, I think this just might be Leiber's best novel of terror. It displays many intriguing elements: a candid self-portrait for its protagonist (aging widower and novelist of the supernatural “Franz Westen,” a recovering alcoholic afraid of commitment), an evocative mid-70's San Francisco setting so detailed and precise that walking tours have been based on it, affectionate homages to both the traditional English ghost story and Weird Tales (a specter which evokes M
We Control the Vertical...

You can check every detail of Leiber’s physical descriptions on Google Earth. The rocks atop Corona Heights do have faded astrological graffiti. There is an old seven storey hotel at 811 Geary whose rear windows face the Heights two miles away, and which goes into shadow from the high-rise next door with the afternoon sun. I have no doubt that the details of the public transport routes and the transfer points necessary to get from one to the another are exactly correct
Jack Tripper
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird, horror
Fritz Leiber, despite being more widely known today for his science fiction and the sword and sorcery tales starring Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, was also one of the most original and important horror authors in the history of the genre. His short stories from the 40's, such as "Smoke Ghost," "The Dreams of Albert Moreland," and "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" -- along with his classic 1943 novel, Conjure Wife -- were groundbreaking, and cemented his status as the most influential American writer ...more
Before there was Urban Fantasy... there was 1978's Fritz Leiber writing Urban Fantasy. :)

Strangely enough, I was very engaged with certain parts of this novel, how it set itself up as a horror within a horror, a horror writer going through a dark patch that then leads him into a very STRANGE patch where ideas intersect with an almost Lovecraftian (or Clark Ashton Smith-ian) becomes a novel of investigation and eldritch (idea) horror.

Just why did all those old friends, the horror triumvirate (and
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Somehow not my cup of coffee. Bit tedious to me, long winded. I would have wished more horror coming from this mysterious woman.
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autographed, horror
Our Lady of Darkness is a horror novel for intellectuals. While Fritz Leiber started out as a pulp writer of Lovecraftian tales and sword-and-sorcery fantasy, his later writings delved in philosophical searching often of an intimate nature. This novel may be his best horror novel although most readers could argue that the best is really his early urban fantasy work, Conjure Wife Yet Our Lady of Darkness works on many levels. The basis premise is that pulp writer Franz Westen, a thinly disguised ...more
Nov 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leiber was a rare and genuine triple threat. Fantasy, sci-fi and horror. I had not previously read any of his horror writings, but am a big fan of his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser sword & sorcery series in particular, as well as many of his sci-fi shorts.

Our Lady of Darkness is his last published novel, and it's a doozy. It's the story of a San Francisco based fantasy/horror writer in the 1970's (so perhaps loosely semi-autobiographical?), with what you might call a well exercised imagination, who
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Leiber and ... Highly recommended! (If you have not read it yet, I know I'm late to the club).

Fritz Leiber creates a captivating "paramental" story, a dark urban fantasy, which pays tribute to authors Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft and others. This story is successful thanks of Leiber's talent and turns itself into a classic in its own right.

Of course I will read more works by this author.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror-fiction
OUR LADY OF DARKNESS isn't an exciting read. It's a slow burner, a mass of details, all seeming inconsequential at first, that build and grow into something that is ultimately rich and strange and terrifying.

There's a lot going on here, in the range and depth of characters that remind me of some of Raymond Chandler's or Ross MacDonald's lost people in California, in the details of the occult nature of city building, and in the secret pasts of famous genre writers such as Jack London and Clark As
Jan 22, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
First published as Pale Brown Thing a 2 part serial in Fantasy & Science Fiction (issues 1,2/77). Our Lady of Darkness was Leiber's last novel. ...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More)
In this story, Leiber demonstrates an incredible knowledge base about dark and supernatural fiction, going back into the 19th and early 20th century. He writes this story in the style of Lovecraft, or should I say Machen, since he wrote The Great God Pan long before Lovecraft, in which the unknown menace is slowly being revealed to the protagonist. This is a knowledge too terrible to behold. Many have been damaged and have succumbed to it in the past.

I liked the nod and the reference to all thos
Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness is a supernatural mystery novel, plunging deep into an urban consciousness of San Francisco and the strange secrets that may be buried there. A queer occult tome and a delicately written journal that may or may not have belonged to author Clark Ashton Smith sets into motion a horrifying mystery concerning the very city itself. Franz Westen, author of his own brand of supernatural horror becomes obsessed with the tome and journal after spying something pale and ...more
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-fantasy, horror
Quite a book by Leiber, something akin to an urban fantasy or a Gothic horror novel, but in the end outside of any specific genre. Our main protagonist, Frantz (quasi autobiographical?!?) is basically a pulp horror writer/hack, working on novelizations of TV shows at the moment. After his relatively young wife passed due to brain cancer, he went on something like a 3 year drunk but now is sober and finding his way again. Set in San Francisco and first published in 1978, the focus of the plot con ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Whereas I liked Conjure Wife, I found this book all but impossible to get into. There was a time when I made myself complete books I'd started, but I finally came to a point where I decided that there are only so many hours in a life that can be given to reading. So I put this one down. I'm sorry in that I've really liked Leiber's work in the past.

To bad really. Try for yourself obviously some do like it, but not me. This is a more complex book than Conjure Wife founded on a "fantasy magical sci
Aug 13, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most disappointing reads I've ever endured. I love Leiber, he's one of my favorite authors and I spent six years trolling the bins at used bookstores for his material, which is why I thought it a great coup when for the first time ever I spotted this book and mistook it for a lost gem. It tried for a Salem's Lot style horror-in-a-prosaic setting, this time modern (mid 70's) San Francisco and it tosses in a Lovecraftian element with a book of forbidden knowledge that opens up ...more
 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri
Review: OUR LADY OF DARKNESS by Fritz Leiber

A classic horror novel, as well it should be, OUR LADY OF DARKNESS is one of the few stories I consider perfect. My recommendation to aficionados of subtle horror, is to cast yourself into this novel; then, while it traverses your brain pathways and central nervous system, follow it up with Caitlin R. Kiernan' s neo-Lovecraftian masterpiece, "Pickman' s Other Model," pondering its perception of the Dark Lady.

First published in short story form in 1971,
Feb 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-pass, dnf
I'm giving up on this at 15%. I've been trying to read it since October and it's February. I want to call it pretentious and annoying, but I'll just settle for "It was not my cup of tea" ...more
Lee Broderick
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently revisited 100 Must-Read Fantasy Novels . In one of his lists, Nick Rennison recommends Our Lady of Darkness as a 'Dark Fantasy'. It turns out it also won the World Fantasy Award, among others, in 1978. I enjoyed Leiber's Lankhmar books so I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued. I had thought that his other books were horror but perhaps I was wrong?

Well, as it turns out, no. 'Science-Fiction and Fantasy' often get lumped together by publishers and by large segments of the public.
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I want to make it perfectly clear that this is all. Neil. Gaiman's. fault.

Awhile ago, I came across a list of Gaiman's favorite books and this was on it. What the hey, I said. I'll take a stab at that! Well, stab taken, and it's a good thing that I wasn't planing on sleeping any time soon. Wow, wow, wow - it's been awhile since a book creeped me out this badly!

Recovering alcoholic, horror writer Franz Westen has a particularly soft spot in his heart for San Fransisco's quirky history - especiall
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm so glad that I finally read this. I feel a strong connection with Leiber and his writing and I would like to collect all of this man's work. This book is a sort of modern, urban ghost story, like a really cool crossbreed of m. R. james, H. P. Lovecraft and existential pain. It's about the energy that builds up inside the conduits, tunnels, skyscrapers and buzzing antennae of huge cities and how that energy can be harnessed. Clark Ashton Smith is almost a character in this book, by way of a d ...more

This is good fun. In 1970s San Francisco, a middle-aged recovering alcoholic and writer of science-fiction/fantasy stories is drawn into a mystery involving a decades-old book called Megapolisomancy (in which the author, the fictional T. de Castries, suggests that the accumulation of steel, concrete, electricity and other elements in large modern cities, combined with certain geometrical realities related to buildings and the layouts of streets, may serve the incubation of occult forces) and the
Ann Schwader
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovecraftians, fans of Clark Ashton Smith
Shelves: horror
Disclaimer: this is very much a YMMV review. Unless you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith, or interested in that circle of writers, this elegant dark fantasy might only come in at 4 stars for you. It is not "Mythos," but it does involve the life of Clark Ashton Smith (in possibly fictional detail) & refers more than once to Lovecraft & his works.

Our Lady of Darkness is an atmospheric, tightly written tale of curses, haunting, occult texts, & mystery. Although set in 1970s San Fr
Not As Expected!

One morning, while looking out his window, Franz sees a strange figure waving at him. Later that day, while at the same spot where he had earlier seen said figure, he looks at his house, and now the stranger is in his house waving at him!

So begins the the search for the mysterious figure and what it is all about.

Except for a few scary scenes, the book is mostly a mystery novel, not that anything is wrong with that. I love a good mystery.

It’s just that the book was sold as a horr
Twerking To Beethoven
Could you write a less than 200 page horror book with a very interesting premise and make it boring as fuck and as pointless as a set of nipples on a bull? The answer is yes.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Great setting and eerie atmosphere - an old apartment building with painted up unused shafts and broom closets with windows in sight of San Fransisco's Corona Heights. A quick read that had me racing to the end, and with a climax did not disappoint. So good, I've got another title by the author lined up for next month. ...more
Warren Fournier
My only complaint about this excellent novel is that the reason given to us for all the strange happenings in the plot is that an old wizard wanted to get some sort of revenge on fantasy writer Clark Ashton Smith. It's silly, and creates not a hole in the plot, but rather a vast empty void. But it is no spoiler for me to say this, nor did it take away from my enjoyment, because the novel is not about some old fictional curse on a real historic figure in art and literature. It is about the very r ...more
Jim Smith
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Manic and strange convolutions of history, pseudo-history, geography and psychogeography connect vividly to give the impression of a whirling city where anything can happen.
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the horror novels that'll get under your skin. It's got no serial killers in it (at least no living ones; the jury's still out on a non-living one), no gruesome deaths, no blood and gore, almost none of the stuff you might think of when you think of a horror novel. But it's one of the better ones I've read, and that's saying something.

The tone is highly realistic. Franz, the main character, sits in his buddy's apartment two floors down, late into the evening, discussing the legali
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Fritz Leiber dips into the lore and literature of the weird tale and Megapolisomancy, the pseudoscience of haunted cities, using an array of texts and lore from Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and other weird pulp writers, in addition to dark occult societies to produce a novel that, if not particularly scary, is absorbing. Leiber's style in delivering this novel is more Ramsey Campbell, then HP Lovecraft or CA Smith.

A former alcoholic pulp writer, Franz Westen, living in San Francisco, finds a se
Carla Remy
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Horrific atmosphere in a gentle nightmare world. When I got to the end, I was pretty sure it was symbolic not literal. Like a dream...
As much is taken here from De Quincey's Three Sisters concept ("Our Ladies of Sorrow") as in Dario Argento's three movies (of declining quality). Yet this book was published in 1977, and the film Suspiria is also from 1977. So... zeitgeist or coincidence?
I love that the main character writes novelizations for a TV show called "Weird Underground."
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Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr. was one of the more interesting of the young writers who came into HP Lovecraft's orbit, and some of his best early short fiction is horror rather than sf or fantasy. He found his mature voice early in the first of the sword-and-sorcery adventures featuring the large sensitive barbarian Fafhrd and the small street-smart-ish Gray Mouser; he returned to this series at various ...more

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