Friday, July 25, 2014

Too Similar?

Among my favorite writers of ghost and weird stories is yet another British author, John Gordon. Most of his work is considered for young adults, but almost all of it is exceptional in some way and can be appreciated by older readers. He excels at old-fashioned ghost yarns and for years I sought to buy a copy of his collection CATCH YOUR DEATH AND OTHER GHOST STORIES. But the copies I'd find were generally too expensive for my budget and I'd have to pass. Recently, I landed an original hardback copy, but as it has yet to arrive from the UK, I'll hold comments on the contents until it arrives (I'd read some of the stories therein, presented in the late Karl Wagner's YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES).

This week I read one of his more recent novels, THE FLESH EATER (1998). This is a young adult novel concerning a fellow in his late teens. I don't recall that his exact age is ever mentioned, but for some reason I assumed him to be between 17 and 19 years old. A likeable and physically imposing young gentleman with relatively wealthy parents who own a very large hotel in a village in the Fens. The hero, one Harry Hogge has the enviable quality of attracting pretty girls. And the girls are what get him entangled in a mystery that soon becomes rather dangerous and equally chilling.

The writing here is classic Gordon. Which is to say it's also classically Jamesian. The thing about the plot that eventually got on my nerves is that I realized about three quarters of the way into the novel that it's just a re-telling of "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James himself. It wouldn't have much bothered me except that it's so much like that classic story (the source material for the excellent film CURSE OF THE DEMON) that it got on my nerves. I could give it a pass if it had been a bit less like the story...but it is not. At a certain point the plots are pretty much paralleling one another.

Still and all, I'm glad I read it. I always learn something new about writing when I chance across a well-constructed novel. This is certainly a well written book, but I wish the plot hadn't been so much like something so famous from the author who has obviously most influenced Mr. Gordon.

 The creature, from CURSE OF THE DEMON.

No comments: