I’ve been reading a lot of horror lately. Maybe it’s summer’s calling or maybe it’s just that I’m discovering, or should I say rediscovering, classics. By classics, of course, I mean the B-grade kind, those that are hard on the gas pedal and light on the rich narrative. I’ve tried to change, to get serious in my choices, but it seems to be a lost cause. I always end up dissing whatever may strike other people’s fancy in favor of those faves of mine which truly know how to grab my attention from page one.
Finishing up SPAWN OF HELL by the very talented William Schoell, I can easily confirm that indeed, this 1984 chiller about fabricated monsters invading a small town is a pure treat from cover to cover. I know, I sound a bit like a walking blurb but I don’t care. This offering is truly a work of vintage art, one that should be discussed in writing classes as the how-to in creating horror magic on a dime. Because we all know that Mr. Schoell didn’t spend an eternity in finding just the right words or the prettiest of sentences to tell his story. No, the guy just skillfully spewed out the basic threads to create an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that some other reputed authors could and should probably envy.
Despite some evident lack of finishing touches in his overall delivery and a slew of aggravating typos (it’s a pre-Don D’auria edition), Schoell has another plus in his favor: he can create loving characters. People we easily connect with in between action sequences. So instead of minimizing character development, he spends a few chapters focusing on it. This has been criticized by many who feel that it slows down the plot, and I quite agree. It does boil down to that, but contrary to, say, Edward Lee or perhaps Gord Rollo (two authors I appreciate from time to time) who spend little time in focusing on characterization, the end result is far more superior. ‘Cause when the blood hits the fan, you do pray for the protagonists’ safety.
Another thing I completely dig is the way Schoell gets rid of his people. And I’m not talking about his demise choices here. What I’m specifically saying is that no one is safe in this novel. Any character could meet the grim reaper, any time any day. This makes the read even more enticing, if you ask me. Am I going overboard with this Schoell lovin’? Hum maybe. But if every novel I venture into could be as rewarding as SPAWN OF HELL, perhaps I’d end up with even more horror titles in my reading pile. It’s work like this that makes this genre all the more worthwhile. SPAWN OF HELL is William Schoell’s first novel (it was re-published in 1987 by Leisure). He wrote several others after that one. I have no idea if they are as engrossing but I’m more than happy to find out.
POSTSCRIPT: it looks like SPAWN OF HELL will finally hit the digital market very soon. Yes, dear readers, just got word that the novel will eventually be re-released as THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT. More reason for you to get this gem as soon as it’s available. In the meantime, if you’re really in need of a fix, you can always hunt down a used copy or better yet, try his latest, MONSTER WORLD. I hear it’s very compelling.
Until next post—Martin