I haven’t been doing much horror blogging recently, though I have been busy with horror reading. A couple of books by Tim Lebbon recently caught my eye, and I thought I’d offer a few thoughts about them.
First, a rhetorical question: what is it with the U.K. and horror? So many of the best horror authors these days are British: there’s Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, and Graham Masterton, to name a few. Now we can also add to that list Tim Lebbon. Though I don’t necessarily rank him as the equal, yet, to the other authors I’ve mentioned, he’s an excellent writer with some intriguing ideas. His first novel came out in 1996, so he hasn’t been around as long as the others, either.
Two novels whose premises caught my attention that I had to read were Lebbon’s Berserk and The Everlasting, and I discuss them both below the fold…
Berserk (2006). Tom Roberts, still grieving over the loss of his son during a “military training accident” ten years before, overhears a pair of men in a bar discussing “Porton Down”, the place where his son was killed. Listening in, the father hears one of the men whisper the cryptic sentence, “They kept monsters.”
Tom investigates further, and is rapidly led to an unmarked mass grave inside restricted military territory, a grave that may contain the remains of his son. Seized by an urge to discover the truth, Tom digs. Instead of finding his son, however, he finds a collection of dismembered and decapitated rotting corpses, chained together – and a corpse of a little girl that moves and promises to help Tom find the truth, if he will set her free.
I found this to be one of the coolest starting points for a horror story that I’ve ever read! The book is well-written, disturbing, and definitely a page-turner. The story is not quite what one expects it to be from the introduction given above, though. The only downside to the novel is that I felt like I knew, broadly, where the plot was going almost from the very beginning – or at least from the point Tom digs up the little girl.
The Everlasting (2007). Scott, now in middle age, is still haunted by the events of his beloved grandfather’s death thirty years earlier. “Papa” had murdered his best friend and then committed suicide, but even worse than that is that this murdered friend visited Scotty right after the funeral.
As the story begins, Scott receives a long-lost letter from his grandfather. This letter starts him on a quest to recover an ancient book known as The Chord of Souls, and thrusts him into a web of intrigue involving both immortal beings and beings who are not quite dead.
Again, I found this book to be interesting and a nice page-turner. In the end, though, it felt a little undeveloped: numerous ideas and plot points never quite realize their promise. I felt as if the supernatural “rules of the game” were not completely fleshed out.
One thing I really like about Lebbon’s work: his characters. The protagonists are not the generic “ordinary guys” (handsome, in their 20s, often police officers or ex-military) with no defining characteristics one finds in numerous B-grade (and C-grade) horror novels. In both Berserk and The Everlasting, the protagonist is an older man who has suffered some sort of loss – and that loss provides a motivating force for all of the character’s actions.
I’ll definitely be checking out more of Lebbon’s work. Neither of the two novels I’ve read so far is a horror classic, but each of them illustrates the work of an excellent author whose best work is probably still ahead of him.