John Blackburn’s “Nothing but the Night”

I’m happy to announce that another of John Blackburn’s classic horror novels has been reprinted by Valancourt Books, and again it features an introduction by me — Nothing but the Night!



When a bus crashes that is carrying orphans from the Van Traylen Home, one of the children, Mary Valley, is injured and taken to the hospital for observation.  Psychiatrist Peter Haynes is convinced that something is wrong with the young girl, who suffers from traumatic nightmares of events that she could not possibly have experienced.  A visit from Mary’s biological mother Anna Harb, psychic and once convicted murderer, goes terribly wrong as the woman attempts to throw the child down the stairs, declaring that she is a “soul that should never have been born.”

An additional murder sparks a manhunt for Harb on the lonely island of the Van Traylen Home.  But General Kirk of the Foreign Intelligence Service suspects that something even more sinister is afoot.  Three members of the Van Traylen Fellowship have died recently in mysterious circumstances; could the deaths be connected?  And what is their relationship to Mary Valley and Anna Harb?  Kirk and scientist Marcus Levin join the hunt around the Van Traylen Home, but they are unprepared for the true horror that will be revealed — in the darkness and fires of Guy Fawkes Night!

Nothing but the Night, like most of Blackburn’s novels, is a short, fast-paced read with plenty of twists and turns.  Unlike many of his works, Blackburn hints early on at the sinister secret behind the plot — only the densest reader will fail to realize that something is really, really off with Mary Valley — but nevertheless the final revelation surpassed my most gruesome expectations.

Blackburn’s books are quite hard to put down. He has a wonderful ability to tell a story where events seem to be spiraling out of control faster and faster, building incredible tension while keeping the mystery until the very end.  Nothing but the Night is one of his strongest books, written at the height of his career, and is well-worth a read.

Interestingly, it is the only Blackburn novel to have been made into a major motion picture, also titled Nothing but the Night and starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  The movie is faithful to the plot but fails to capture the pacing and tone of the book.

I’ve been on a Blackburn binge lately, in order to write good introductions!  I’ve got a few introductions to write still, but will also be returning to blogging about a wider variety of horror novels in the near future.


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