Graham Masterton’s Tengu

I’m reading a number of books by Graham Masterton these days, in anticipation of writing a ‘horror masters‘ post on his work. I had to ‘break radio silence’, though, and rave about one of his early books that I just finished over the weekend: Tengu. It’s currently out of print, though copies can be found through Amazon, and it’s well worth a read. I found the book riveting from it’s shocking and horrifying beginning to its explosive ending…

The tale begins with a particularly horrifying and seemingly senseless murder. This murder brings together numerous people: the neighbor of the victim, the victim’s former lover, the police inspector investigating the crime, and others of much less noble ideals. They are inexorably drawn deeper and deeper into a plot to wreak revenge on and destroy the United States for its past crimes.

The Tengu of the title is a demon of Japanese folklore, described in the book as the most powerful and violent of its class. The Tengu represents brutality and power, and the creation of Tengu(s) serves as a tool for a twisted and wealthy man to enact his revenge schemes.

I would say that this is Masterton at his best. There are numerous connections between the characters, and their stories slowly and inevitably intertwine until the nightmarish conclusion. The Tengu itself is truly a horrific, brutal creation, and the scenes of it wreaking havoc never lose their shock value. The true villain of the story, Kappa, the Lord of the Tengu, is one of the most evil I have ever seen in a book, and that’s saying a lot.

As in many of his books, Masterton takes the mythology of an elder culture and twists it into something truly sinister. Even the martial arts become a symbol of horror. The entire story is also laden with the spectre of past crimes and past horrors, reinventing themselves in the present.

Right after reading this book, I went and ordered another early work of Masterton. It’s fair to say he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite horror authors. Why he isn’t as popular as a King or a Koontz in the U.S. is a mystery to me…

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7 Responses to Graham Masterton’s Tengu

  1. lisa says:

    I was introduced to masterton several years ago. I also wonder why he’s not as popular as king and koontz. Just recently found a hard back tengu and I am looking forward to reading it.

  2. KR says:

    I’m reading “Tengu” now. So far, so good.

    I don’t think it’s surprising that Masterton is not as popular as King and Koontz. Masterton’s writing goes to a level of propriety beyond where those authors go. If King includes some sex in his books, Masterton describes specific sexual acts in graphic detail. If King and Koontz include a little gore, Masterton will describe how a character’s intestines are falling out of his body.

    Think of it in terms of rock music. The Beatles and Stones were the pop stars and the ‘acceptable’ rebels of rock music. The Kinks (my favorite of the three) were not as ‘pop’ and their rebelliousness was not as acceptable. It doesn’t surprise me that I favor Masterton over King and Koontz (the latter of whom I have no interest in after reading his “Frankenstein” series, which fell apart badly).

  3. KR says:

    I’m more than halfway through and got a bit distracted by Masterton’s reference to Truman at Yalta, seeing that FDR was at Yalta and Truman was at Potsdam. Sloppy mistake.

    • I’ve gotten the impression in general that Masterton doesn’t do too much research into his history. If you can get past that, he writes some badassed stuff.

      • KR says:

        I think it was an editing mistake because his history can often be awesome (like in “The Hell Candidate”) but I’ve seen mistakes that could have been caught by good editing, preferably an American editor when his books are set in the U.S.

  4. KR says:

    I didn’t like “Tengu” as much as you did. It seemed like a rehash of “Manitou”, except with a Japanese villain seeking revenge, instead of a Native American. Just as with “The Manitou”, I thought that the means by which the ‘heroes’ tried to defeat the bad guys was silly, and, even in the context of a horror novel, not credible.

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