Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Now I Lay me Down To Sleep

In Stephen King's The Shining, it's The Overlook Hotel that infects the narrator.

In Frank Lambirth's Now I Lay me Down To Sleep, it's Stone Warrior Island, a remote parcel of earth off the coast of Washington.

The '89 novel from Popular Library, a division of Warner Books, is a taut, first person account of a man's plunge into madness.

The H.P. Lovecraft influence is evident in the novel's events and voice.

It opens thus:

They sit before me, a cautious encouragement mirrored in their faces. My liberty, perhaps my life, depends on their accepting that I speak the truth. I came to this island, isolated in the Great North Woods of Canada, joined later by a family of four. They are all dead -- murdered -- yet there was no living soul except myself within two hundred miles of the tiny island. I have lived the past eight terrifying days in a minute universe stalked by the same horror that struck them down. Even now, surrounded by policemen, I cannot shake the premonition that I will not leave this hellish place. I start to talk, hesitantly at first, then with more assurance.

I like the paranoid, somewhat arch style of Lambirth's obscure novel. And I enjoyed experiencing the wilting hope of the narrator.

The 31st chapter opens with this declaration:

No smile rewarded my attempt at levity, yet my request turned the spigot on a stream of words.

Yes, Mr. Lambirth is channeling Lovecraft from beyond time and space, but there are elements of Ramsey Campbell, too (the awesome The Face That Must Die), and, of course William Hope Hodgson. The author sources these writers, but he mates them together and manages to regurgitate a fresh fetus.

The language is frequently hysterical, but it is consistent with the character's downward spiral, and we are left with no doubt that our narrator is losing his marbles.

The book is built for dread, not chills, and does not diverge from its mission.

Back in '89, I used to frequent The Paperback Shack on Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, a veritable vending machine of contemporary horror novels. Each week I would buy three or four new releases; this was the horror glut that preceded the genre's temporary crash. For a short period at least, it was the best of times for horror.

Lambirth's only other novel is the '88 Behind The Door, which I'm ashamed to admit I don't own and haven't read.

The book's cover illustration is credited to Mark and Stephanie Gerber.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is a worthy addition to any horror library.

5 comments:

  1. Sounds great!
    I will have to keep an eye out for this one.

    Thanks Phantom!

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  2. ...yes it does.
    How sad it isn't published in Germany

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  3. Missesgrim -- yes, very sad that it isn't published in Germany. Probably your best bet is alibris.com or amazon.com for a 2nd hand copy in English.

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  4. amazon.de has many old paperbacks, I also found it there but for 19Euros...WoW
    I will wait.
    Yesterday I bought Savage Snow!
    Hope it arrives soon.

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  5. Missesgrim -- 19Eu is a bit steep.

    So happy you've bought SAVAGE SNOW. It's fantastic.

    It always has one of the most gloriously raw and pornographic sex scenes you will ever read.

    Just perfect.

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