Sunday, February 26, 2017

Obelisk by Ehren M. Ehly (1988): A Ghost Lives in My Veins

Ye risen gods but is this some terrific 1980s paperback cover art! Behold the stepback below, in which artist Ben Perini really went for broke in his depiction of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh's golden visage revealed to be rotting and diseased, a mummified wretch of humanity which brings blinding terror. Man, I can hear potential readers thinking to themselves back in the day, if this novel is half as good as this cover, I am in for some groovy horror excitement! It may have even been you, dear reader (it wasn't me certainly; I hadn't seen this book prior to beginning TMHF). Long on my to-read list, Obelisk (Leisure Books, July 1988), was the first novel of one Ehren M. Ehly, pseudonym of Moreen Le Fleming, whose life story is quite a read.

When Steve Harrison, a young American scholar desperate to pay back an unscrupulous loan shark, attempts to rob a newly-opened Egyptian tomb hoped to contain another world-famous trove of treasure and mystery, he becomes, in so many words, possessed by the undead spirit of Menket, a pharaoh of antiquity. Much like the werewolf curse, Steve cannot remember what he does at night beneath the risen moon... only that he feels much guilt and anxiety during daylight hours and a godawful thirst. After arriving back in New York City, the horrific hijinks continue, Steve/Menket terrorizes that always terrorizable town, killing innocent folks unlucky enough to cross his path (you know the drill: quickly-sketched characters introduced solely to be slaughtered). Driven by a desire to be fully resurrected, Menket's thoughts read like translated heiroglyphics:

Now come, vessel of life-giving marrow.
Let my teeth crush your bones, that my flesh may live, and renew itself.
Hands of stone, tear the sinews. Teeth of stone, crush the bones.
How sweet the marrow, give of life and blood.
Now Re, now Osiris, come. Share with me this feast of nourishment,
that we may exult in the day of resurrection.

And in the great tradition of paperback horror novels with stunning covers, Obelisk delivers much, much less than promised. It trades in the most basic of TV-movie characterizations and behavior sprinkled liberally with '80s VHS horror flick gore (which is not necessarily a bad thing). It's not unreadable, say, like Ruby Jean Jensen or J.N. Williamson, but it certainly lacks the vigorous tastelessness of a Graham Masterton. Ehly is an earnest, competent yet square kind of writer; the pulpy elements are all in place, but I feel if the narrative and characterizations had been trimmed down we'd have a respectable '80s horror novel. Amateurish dialogue, boring cops on the chase, oh man, I just had to skim the last third of the novel. However I did learn one fun fact: there truly is an obelisk in Central Park!


Unknown said...

Epic! Adding this one to the pile.

Space-Badger13 said...

Hey now - I actually like Ruby Jean Jensen - give the zebra horror "some" props...

Jesse B. said...

Man, you've been reading a lot of "meh" stuff lately. Hope you run across something really excellent soon. :)

Adam said...

This is on the shelf at my local bookshop and I've been agonizing over whether or not to pick it up. Now I gotta...