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review 2019-10-22 01:31
Devil in the Darkness by Archie Roy
Devil In The Darkness - Archie Roy

A sudden snowstorm in the Scottish Highlands strands a newly married couple in a crumbling Victorian mansion known as Ardvreck House, along with a team of paranormal investigators and demolition experts already there, seeking proof that the mansion is haunted before the old pile is reduced to rubble.
Archie Roy, a noted astronomer and physical researcher, brings a sane, scientific approach to the haunted house genre, without losing an ounce of atmosphere or dread. And avoiding the cocksure, self serving/self promoting nonsense that oozes from such 'paranormal investigators' as the Warrens. The suspense steadily mounts without being bogged down by the dry tone scientific writing has been known to be plagued with.

Originally published in 1978 and brought to America for the first time by Valancourt Books (Where do they find these wonderful lost gems?)

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review 2019-10-01 17:02
"Burnt Offerings" by Robert Marasco
Burnt Offerings: Valancourt 20th Century Classics - Robert Marasco,R.C. Bray

 

 

"Burnt Offerings" is nineteen-seventies classic horror. It's not in a hurry, It's not looking for the quick spike of fear that comes from slash-and-splash action. It's a slow burn read designed to build the kind of terror that comes from extended exposure to a threat you can't name, that you may even blame yourself for and which you can't escape.

 

Marasco takes a relatively normal domestic "What if?", adds an element of the supernatural and then unfolds events with dreadful implacability, leaving me feeling like I was watching flies struggling in the web of a spider that I hadn't yet seen. The "What if?" is: what if you had chance to have your dream house but the price was putting your marriage under strain and leaving you with no energy left over to do anything else? Would you pay the price? Would it be worth it? Could you NOT pay the price once you've started?

 

I suspect that, if this were being converted to a movie today, there would be a rush to get the young family to the haunted house so bad things could start to happen before people lose interest. Marasco goes a different route. He makes the oppression of living in a crowded, noisy apartment block in Queens in the summer heat and humidity come alive. He gives us time to look at wife and husband and to see how they are alone and apart. This achieves two things: it makes the decisions each of them make later more believable and it lays the foundation for believing that what befalls them is, somehow, their own fault.

 

When we finally get to the huge, remote house in up-State New York that the couple is thinking of renting for the summer, there is a strong sense of threat being masked in the same way that a spicy sauce is used to hide the tainted meat it covers. The masking is done partly by the weirdly charismatic Alerdices, who own the house but the couple themselves actively collude in not seeing anything wrong.

 

As the reader, hearing the Alerdices say that the house will be rented to "The right people'" felt like a doom or a curse, as if they were identifying "the right people" the same way that a predator uses the barely-there-but-bound-to-get-worse lameness to mark one of the herd as prey.

 

To me, the rental house seems a twist on the fairy tale gingerbread house: part lure, part trap. The Alerdices, brother and sister, seem at first to be the wicked witch, yet something speaks to priest or acolyte which opens the question of who or what is being worshipped.

 

Yet the Alerdices do not force the house on this couple. The wife lusts after it, not just blind but antagonistic to any suggestion of a problem. The husband senses the taint of something rotten beneath the surface but will not stand behind his judgement. If the house is a trap then these two have chosen to ensnare themselves. This self-ensnarement provides an element of guilt that will make them distrust themselves and each other and which made me less sympathetic to them.

 

As time goes by and various spooky, tension-inducing things happen, I found myself starting to dislike both the husband and the wife. They were never particularly engaging but I could feel the best parts of them leaching away like topsoil in a rainstorm, as they came under the influence of the house. I think the power of Marasco's writing is shown by how my perceptions as the reader where manipulated, letting me slide from being neutral about this couple at the start of the novel to experiencing a kind of grim schadenfreude-driven satisfaction at what happens to them at the end.

 

I won't give away what happens. The ending was not a surprise but that amplified rather than reduce the level of horror.

 

I listened to the audiobook, read by R.C Bray, who I always think of as having a "Joe Friday" voice although his range is much broader than that. He's the perfect choice for this low key but relentless horror story.

 

Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

https://soundcloud.com/audiobooksalive/burnt-offerings-by-robert-marasco-audiobook-sample
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text 2019-09-08 21:25
Reading progress update: I've read 25%. I love the slow-burn tension
Burnt Offerings: Valancourt 20th Century Classics - Robert Marasco,R.C. Bray

Love the slow-burn tension in this book. It gives a sense of threat masked, like tainted meat beneath a spicy sauce.

Saying that the house will be rented to "The right people' feels like a doom or a curse, marking "the right people" the same way that barely-there but bound to get worse lameness marks one of the herd as prey.

I'm asking myself if the rightness based on need or on something else, something that makes the prey sweeter?

The house itself is a twist on the gingerbread house - a lure and a trap.


The Alerdices , brother and sister , seem at first to be the wicked witch, yet something speaks to priest or acolyte rather than witch, in which case, is it the mother, she who must be offered a tray three times a day, who is being worshipped or the house?

 

Is there a link between the boys cut knee and the revitalisation of the apparently dead plant?

And is the fact that the husband senses but cannot find the taint and will say yes to the house anyway something worthy of blame or something that shows that fate cannot be avoided?

I love being able to close the book at the end of the chapter that brings me a quarter of the way through the novel and ponder these things rather than being rushed to the splatter and gore.

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text 2019-09-07 23:13
Reading progress update: I've read 6%.
Burnt Offerings: Valancourt 20th Century Classics - Robert Marasco,R.C. Bray

 

I've been meaning to read this haunted house story for some time and the opening hasn't disappointed me.

 

It's read by R.C Bray, who I always think of as having a "Joe Friday" voice although his range is much broader than that. He's the perfect choice for this very late seventies early eighties kind of horror. 

 

If this were being done today, I think there would be a rush to get the young family to the haunted house so bad things could start to happen before people lose interest. Marasco goes a different route. He makes the oppression of living in a crowded, noisy apartment block in Queens in the heat and the humidity come alive and he gives us time to look at wife and husband and how they are alone and apart. It's an encouraging start,

 

 

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review 2019-08-29 04:55
The Spirit by Thomas Page
The Spirit (Paperbacks from Hell Book 5) - Grady Hendrix,Thomas Nelson Page

For a schizophrenic Native American, it is the spirit guide that will lead him back to the heritage he can no longer remember....a spirit he will kill to protect.

For a wealthy businessman looking for a purpose in life, sole survivor of a chance encounter with this spirit, it is a savage beast that must be destroyed at all costs.

The creature known as Bigfoot.

An engaging, reasonably intelligent novel concerning the legend that basically kept alive supermarket tabloids back in the day and fueled a few horror films.
Page offers an interesting spin on Bigfoot, and the conflicting evidence associated with it, while delivering a solid horror adventure that explores what drives humans to the edge of insanity in search of inner peace.

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