Basically, I raced through Tully (perhaps a bit too quickly; there's some of that, whatchacallit, symbolism here I fear I missed) and its story of Pete Richardson, an editor who is plagued by night terrors, waking each night to a strange whooshing sound, convinced someone is about trying to murder him. His rather eccentric apartment co-dwellers don't do much to disabuse him of this notion. In fact, they alternately insist on holding a seance, or hypnotizing him, or regaling him with ancient Church heresies and the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno. As their apartment building is threatened with being torn down by the wrecking balls getting closer daily, each neighbor moves away, leaving Richardson horribly alone, cold, frightened, perhaps paranoid or even mad.
The other story is of Matthew Willow, a young man on the titular search. Hallahan wrings solid suspense from the tricky, painstaking work of genealogical research that in other hands could become dry and boring. Joseph Tully was an 18th century wine merchant from England who with his sons tried to set up a vast wine company in the mid-Atlantic States, but tragedy and war prevent success. Hallahan gives quick, detailed sketches of the harrowing frontier lives of Tully's descendants in pre-Revolutionary New Jersey and New York, then as wild and unsettled as the West, and as wild and unsettling as any scene of violent supernatural horror. We get caught up in the little victories and distressing dead-ends of Willow's seemingly endless trips to city archives in libraries, churches, basements and bookstores. Why is Willow searching for Joseph Tully? Just know that he is, that's all. Being quite a research nerd myself, and with my copy of the 1977 Avon paperback (with a relevant if uninspired cover) giving off that wonderful old bookstore smell, I was quite charmed - and sometimes chilled - by this aspect of the novel.
1976 UK paperback
Honestly, I reveled in Tully's lonely, despairing, fatalistic tone. Chapters are short, enigmatic, vaguely existential - indeed we get several references to the idea that the birth of existential man was in the death camps of WWII. There are lots of people looking forlornly out of windows onto landscapes of frozen fields and streets and rundown cities trapped in snowy desolation, while the apartment building slowly empties out beneath swirling winds and high clouds moving out towards the black waters of the North Atlantic. Everywhere there is palpable cold and frost and snow and slush, and all the while terrors whisper across generations, mysterious terrors of vengeance and lost souls unmoored from justice and eternal rest, which only man can render unto man, no matter what.