The Ballad of Black Tom

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The Ballad of Black Tom is a 2016 fantasy/horror novella by Victor LaValle, revisiting H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Horror at Red Hook" from the viewpoint of a black man.


In 1924 Harlem, Tommy Tester is a small-time hustler whose regular guise as a street musician brings him in contact with reclusive millionaire Robert Suydam, who wants him to participate in a nefarious scheme involving the Great Old Ones.


"The Ballad of Black Tom" won the 2016 Shirley Jackson Award for best novella,[1] and was a finalist for the 2016 Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction,[2] the 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novella,[3] the 2017 British Fantasy Award for best novella,[4] the 2017 Theodore Sturgeon Award,[5] the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novella,[6] and the 2017 World Fantasy Award—Long Fiction.[7]

Slate called it "riveting", "clever", and "compelling", and noted LaValle's comparison of "cosmic indifference" to targeted racist malice and brutality.[8] Vice described it as "tightly written, beautifully creepy, and politically resonant", and emphasized that despite its nature as a literary "rebuttal", it is still "a thrilling Lovecraftian tale of mystery, monsters, and madness".[9]

Nina Allan commended LaValle for "making (...) 'The Horror at Red Hook' (into) an actual story (...) featuring real characters with real motivations – a claim that can not safely be made for the original tale", but observed that — when compared to the vivid "lunacy" of Lovecraft's writing — LaValle's prose is "grounded and sound in both mind and body" and ultimately "pedestrian".[10] Conversely, the Philadelphia Inquirer preferred LaValle's "sharp and direct sentences" to Lovecraft's "spongy prose".[11]


In 2017, AMC announced that they are planning a TV adaptation of The Ballad of Black Tom, with LaValle as co-executive producer.[12]


  1. ^ 2016 Shirley Jackson Awards, retrieved October 7, 2017
  2. ^ 2016 Bram Stoker Awards final ballot; at; retrieved October 7, 2017
  3. ^ SFWA Announces 2016 Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Award Nominees!, at Science Fiction Writers of America; published February 20, 2017; retrieved October 7, 2017
  4. ^ British Fantasy Awards 2017 – Shortlists, by Phil Lunt, at the British Fantasy Society; published July 14, 2017; retrieved October 7, 2017
  5. ^ Sturgeon Award finalists; retrieved October 7, 2017
  6. ^ 2017 Hugo Awards, at; retrieved October 7, 2017
  7. ^ 2017 World Fantasy Award Finalists, at Locus Online; published July 26, 2017; retrieved October 7, 2017
  8. ^ Lovecraft’s Black Monsters, by Tammy Oler, at Slate; published March 9, 2016; retrieved October 7, 2017
  9. ^ Victor LaValle’s New Novel Is H. P. Lovecraft, Without the Horrific Racism, by Lincoln Michel, at Vice; published March 2, 2016; retrieved October 7, 2017
  10. ^ #weird2016: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, reviewed by Nina Allan, at; published April 23, 2016; retrieved October 7, 2017
  11. ^ 'Ballad of Black Tom' Out-Lovecrafts Lovecraft, by Ryan Teitman, in the Philadelphia Inquirer; published July 31, 2016; retrieved October 7, 2017
  12. ^ AMC’s “Ballad of Black Tom” Will Get Caught in a Lovecraftian Conspiracy, by John Squires, at Bloody Disgusting; published July 31, 2017; retrieved October 7, 2017

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