Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Eyes of Well

When I opened this month's package from Leisure, Gord Rollo's Crimson fell out, followed by a new edition of Richard Laymon's Dark Mountain (previously released in the US as Tread Softly by Tor).

Surprisingly, it was William Schoell's Spawn of Hell, released by BMI (Book Margins, Inc.) in '84, that came to mind as I stared at the slick Crimson cover art.

Probably a coincidence, but BMI was an imprint of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc., just as Leisure Books is an imprint of Dorchester now.

William Schoell wrote a handful of pretty decent horror novels from the mid-80's to the end of the decade. Then he did an about-face into non-fiction.

Spawn of Hell is a well written horror opus about genetic mutations. Schoell always placed great emphasis on characterization, so his novels are never lacking for substance. Unfortunately, a little too much space is devoted to this tale's love story, taking us away from the horror and severing the tension.

Horror with a subterranean setting is certainly not uncommon. Aspects of Schoell's book even reminded me of Lewis Teague's film of Alligator ('80), which was written (and written well) by John Sayles.

As a writer, Schoell patrolled similar territory to Stephen King, focusing on very ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

Cover art aside, Rollo's Crimson shares few parallels with Spawn of Hell, aside from the fact that the book's creature begins life down a well, another tried-and-true, subterranean waiting room for evil.

I whipped through Crimson fairly quickly and enjoyed it for the most part, but I wouldn't rave about it. So much of it felt familiar.

The book's agent of evil is a resurrected ax murderer who kept reminding me of "Molasar" in F. Paul Wilson's The Keep (visually realized by Michael Mann in the movie of the same name in '83).

He was another crimson-eyed harbinger of evil.

The biggest parallels Crimson shares are with Stephen King's It ('87).

They go beyond the cover art.

Like It, Crimson is a coming-of-age tale in which a group of friends are forced to confront the evil from their past.

Although the book takes some interesting detours, including a gut-wrenching prison sequence, I never felt that Rollo was coming from somewhere deep and heartfelt.

I preferred his The Jigsaw Man ('08).


  1. I've read [and own] Laymon's Tread Softly [not one of his best, but still a fun read]
    What is different in the new edition, Dark Mountain?

    Also, I have Rollo's Jigsaw Man in my "to be read" stack :-)