Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Reaping by Bernard Taylor (1980): Make It Real Not Fantasy

Who doesn't love a creepy fetus with devil horns smirking at you from the womb on a horror paperback  cover? That thing's practically about to wink at you, isn't it? There's no actual evil fetus in The Reaping (Leisure Books, Feb 1982) so that might bum some of you out; no, Bernard Taylor (British author of quiet, effective horror novels like Sweetheart, Sweetheart and The Godsend) doesn't stoop to such crass imaginings. Taylor is more interested in taking his sweet, character-developing time, guiding the patient reader through a subtle psychological tale of grown-up concerns and fears before deploying the malevolent goods in what I found to be a satisfying, unsettling, and successful climax. Sure, I mean it's kinda ridiculous after all the care that's gone before, but I can overlook that. The book is out and done before 250 pages are up.

The Reaping isn't the type of novel I'm gonna rave about, you can get the gist of it from back-cover copy. You wouldn't get it from that freaky fetus cover, but Taylor writes well of intelligent, thoughtful yet flawed adult humans and their often painful relationships, their disappointments, their compromises and their regrets (as I've said before, many many horror writers have no idea how to describe adulting). I mean, the main character is an artist who, when not painting the commissioned portrait, relaxes with the novels of Muriel Spark and Thomas Hardy. With the subject of his painting, the mysterious and shy and lovely Catherine, he discusses the novelistic merits of the Bront√ę sisters. Don't know about you but I like when characters in horror exist in the real world and not just as fodder for supernatural or psychopathic evil.

 1992 Leisure reprint

Rigby's desire to actually be an artist, working and paid and successful, rather than just a widowed shop owner who lost children in a car accident several years prior, motivates him to accept that commission. But what strangeness ensues in that countryside estate! And hot sex. And the most cringe-worthy massage this side of George Costanza. Guess he should've known... Suspense builds in workmanlike style, heading toward a finale the clues to which I actually was unable to spot and which I think Taylor kept well-hidden. But it all makes sense in the end, which is more than I can say for other novels, right?
 
1980 UK hardcover, Souvenir Press: quite accurate

Want a none-too-taxing read written by a grown man who knows his way around the English language, who presents his characters in a relaxed, believable manner, and who can raise a goosebump or two about the invisible machinations some people will undertake to gain ultimate power? Maybe check out The Reaping: it's not gonna blow you away or anything, but don't you want people to see you reading a book with such delightful cover art? Of course you do! *wink wink*


2 comments:

Padded Cell said...

I liked his book "The Godsend," and "Sweetheart, Sweetheart" is in my To Be Read pile.

Also, there are movies of his books "The Godsend" and "Mother's Boys."

Sheeple said...

You wrote:
"Taylor writes well of intelligent, thoughtful yet flawed adult humans and their often painful relationships, their disappointments, their compromises and their regrets (as I've said before, many many horror writers have no idea how to describe adulting)."

Hey Dummy; we hate that sh*t, that's why we're fans of fantastic horror! If we dug that stuff about lamestream conformity, we'd go elsewhere- likely to a different another google-owned blog that focuses on, say- Romance novels? Or perhaps a celebrity tell-all on how a Hollywood moron overcame their despondency and drug addiction. Harumph!