Mummies are creepy and dusty and probably smell like rotten flesh, but they aren’t very scary. Think about it, whom would you rather meet in a dark alley? Nosferatu or Imhotep?
But more than any other monster, mummies provide grist for authors to explore universal themes of life and death. Thousands of years old, mummies roam the earth, a perverse embodiment of immortal lust.
And so it is with the mummy in The Long Night of the Grave. As a priest of Ra during the Egyptian reign of Mentuhotep, Sakhtu lived outside of the law. He was persecuted during his lifetime but he knew the way to power and wealth was through life itself. “The longer you live, the more you have of both,” explains the priest’s modern day disciple. “The most powerful man is the man who outlives his enemies.”
The big question, of course, is who will do the living and who will do the dying? The ancient Egyptians found a way to extend life beyond death. If you knew the secrets, possessed the artifacts and paid attention to ceremony, you could live forever. Who cared if you were wrapped in gauze and slept in a sarcophagus?
Sakhtu is brought to the U.S. by a dilettante named Jeffrey Isle. Nobody in his family had lived beyond the age of 50 and it was his desire to use ancient dark magic to break the “curse of the Isles.” Things go sideways pretty quickly. The mummy, unchained and footloose, goes on a murderous rampage, and Isle is undone by his unchecked ambition. Spoiler alert: the kerfuffle at the end results in a Land of the Pharaohs-like climax.
There’s more to this novel than mummy mayhem, however. The author is trying to make a point about the folly of immortality. The Long Night of the Grave takes place during the late 19th century, a time when emerging technology (like electricity, automobiles and telephones) is on the horizon. Mankind is racing toward the future, and there’s no place in the world for a dusty old mummy from 2100 BC.
The mummy is a seven-foot-tall brute—“dark and black and torn from the mist by a madman’s hand.” He’s an impressive Blackshadow all right, but he’s nothing but an anachronistic curiosity. Poor ol’ Sakhtu. He used Egyptian thaumaturgy to live forever. But he couldn’t find a way to stop the hands of time from moving forward. He discovered too late that the gift of immortality was actually a curse.
[The Long Night of the Grave / By Charles L. Grant / First Printing: January 1988 / ISBN: 9780425106273]