The hills, he had long since come to know, would permit themselves to be tamed, but they would forever hold back—impenetrable—some secrets in reserve. Fields could be cleared and sown, town built, human lives conducted well or ill, but the hills would remain ever and always silent, private, primitive.
Not his first novel,(1) but The Kill offers an example of how and what you had to do to publish during Horror's Silver Foil Era. It is like an old IBM punchcard giving out a dot-matrix printed schematic of style, content, and structure. There's the tone-setting Prologue, the third-person narration spreading out the ensemble of players and their baffled-up solutions—including snippets from The Contrariety itself—all spring-set with summer stock players following well-trodden similitudes like rural air is sweet and relaxing, innocence gets despoiled, careers are not lifestyles, the Farmer's Almanac usurps Wired magazine.
Think back for a moment and you'll find this plot spine among the cobwebs, probably under a different title, but nonetheless . . . picture-postcard burg in the country with farms sharing acreage with wilderness . . . a small-town sheriff getting physically creaky, but a strong, caring protector . . . a Doc Adams-like(2) widowed physician who is benign but crusty . . . a freshly-scrubbed go-getting young couple looking for less bedazzle, more comfort, space, success, good friends and country cookin' . . . idiosyncratic, 10-page players who add color but no consideration . . . a nasty, giant aberration pumped full of enough mystery to keep the pages turning.
Upon first brush-through, I can find no distinguishable characteristics clinging to me like burrs from sticker weeds. While perusing, the read is scratchy enough to keep itching, but loses its barbs the second it is closed. Re-imagined later, it is like its fiend at the center: ill-remembered and invisible.
That's right. The monster is invisible. We know this 'cause some throwaway character runs videotape as it crushes a girl squatting in the dirt to urinate. Recording shows dead girl torn apart by air.
You're not gonna read this foregone effort if you haven't already, so let's jump right into the open grave and sift the broken bones.
Apparently, this thing is re-animated from a fossil dating back to pre-historic man, somehow cracked open on a scree-tossed, shale-strewn mountainside above a hamlet charmingly called Deacon's Kill in the Catskill Mountains. Might as well be a Tyrannosaurus Rex with wings and precognition for the credibility it musters. But it's a man alright, because it kills—in order—a milking cow(3), a 9-year-old girl wandering in the woods(4), an obviously-immoral runaway with black-painted nipples named Candy, and, in a Gong Show moment, puts the move on Meagan—our resident yuppie fox—with "something hard, erect, rocklike, prodded at her crotch"(p.277). This resurrected Fred Flintstone might sound like "calloused hands rubbed roughly together"(p.15) or "sand on stones"(p.77), but it smells of a bad batch of
misogyny to this nose.
1) That would be Panther, c.1981. "The world's most savage killer cats prowl the streets of New York, hungry for the taste of human blood!" (cover blurb).
2) Gunsmoke (1955-75), longest running TV series ever.
3) This is described by the farmer as if he actually saw it (p.275). And, for all the devotion, sympathy, and decency this novel touts in "country folk", the farmer tells no one, sells his farm, and pulls an Ostrich until the townfolk pry him up when it is time for the third act.
4) Obviously a brat and no good, according to her father. "Goddam kid . . . nothin you do for them is good enough nowadays, nothin."(p.157)
© text only © copyright
09/15/2014 by Larry Crawford