I had never heard of Emergence (Avon Books, July 1981)when I found it in a bookstore a few months back, but I recognized the cover art as by the hand of Don Brautigam and bought it solely for that. Author Robert D. San Souci was an award-winning children's writer; he died in a sad accident just a few years ago. I held out some hope for the book because of his reputation, and while this work of Native American vengeance is told with lots of local New Mexico color and characterization, the mythological/horror elements don't have quite the power implied. I was more than halfway through when I realized nothing was happening.
Skipping ahead to the final chapters reveal an epic apocalyptic climax
that is somehow muted, albeit a touch creepy. Just not enough of a
touch. Emergence really could have been a work of overwhelming ancient horror, I really am fascinated by goddesses of death and destruction and the scholarly pursuit thereof, but San Souci couldn't quite twist the knife where it counts.
Despite a knowing depiction of teenage homosexuality and punk rock house parties, The Lake (Avon Books, Aug 1989, cover art by Jim Warren) is a YA novel—something about the back-cover typeface style screams it—and folks that is just not my jam. It was John Peyton Cooke's first novel, and he eventually moved on to crime writing. Again, it's not terrible: he writes clear, more than competent prose, but the witch story was one-dimensional and simplistic and could not keep my engagement very long. First few chapters were fine, teenage relationships are believable, but I absolutely have no interest in middle-school dialogue or shenanigans.
That said, other horror readers more sympathetic to this style might dig The Lake.
Points for its nicely self-aware moments ("You tell me, you're the one that reads all those Stephen King novels") and especially the punk party held in a suburban home while the parents are
away, man that really took me back. Too bad about the puke on that
Clash t-shirt, now that's a collector's item.
With Grady Hendrix, I co-wrote the Stoker Award-winning PAPERBACKS FROM HELL: THE TWISTED HISTORY OF '70s AND '80s HORROR FICTION (2017) from Quirk Books. My horror paperback library keeps growing and growing...
Looking for a forgotten horror novel or short story? Remember the paperback cover art but not the title or author? Send me an email at toomuchhorrorfiction[at]gmail.com describing it and if I don't know it, one of my readers might!
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