Yes, I can help you. But I can promise nothing!
-Anton Zarnak, “Curse of the Black Pharaoh”
Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak is a man of mystery. With a jagged streak of silver running through his black hair from his temple to the base of his skull and his exotic features and peculiar mannerisms, Zarnak is almost as outré as the enemies he fights. With a startling knowledge and a somewhat sinister history, Zarnak battled evil in three stories penned by Carter — “Curse of the Black Pharaoh”, “Dead of Night”, and “Perchance to Dream” — as well as in a half dozen or so more contributed by the likes of Robert M. Price, CJ Henderson, Joseph S. Pulver Sr. And James Chambers. All of these stories, for those interested, are collected in Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak: Supernatural Sleuth from Marietta Publishing.
Like the pulp characters Carter based him on, Zarnak is something of a Renaissance man. Educated at a number of prestigious universities, including the Heidelberg (where he studied theology with a certain Anton Phibes, according to “The Case of the Curiously Competent Conjurer” by James Ambuehl and Simon Bucher-Jones), the Sorbonne and Miskatonic University, he is an accredited physician, musician, theologian and metaphysicist. He speaks eleven languages and has one of the finest and most complete collections of occult literature in existence. His home drifts like a soap bubble between Half-Moon Street in London, No. 13 China Alley in San Francisco and a cursed apartment building in New York; always decorated in oriental splendour, it is filled to bursting with esoteric paraphernalia, including a hideously decorated mask of Yama which always hangs in a place of honour above Zarnak’s desk.
And, as the saying goes, ‘so a man’s home, his mind’ — Zarnak is the proverbial odd duck. By turns consoling and caustic, arrogant and affectionate, and almost inhumanly ruthless, Zarnak is no comforting Judge Pursuivant or soothing John Silence. He is singularly and irrepressibly Zarnak.
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