I know this horror writer is far from being everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I think he’s a talented bloke who deserves more respect than he has been given. He’s been at it for a long time, beginning in 1982 with MOONLAKE. Since then, he has written over 20 books, all horror-related and most with Zebra (which might be the reason why he still gets some tough love from the horror community). Sure, some are more effective than others, but none are boring. I’ve been hoping for a resurgence of his backlist going digital. A couple of his titles have made it so far, but not RUNAWAY (1988), one of my favorite novels of his.
Chills and thrills dominate this tale of survival and friendship among a religious cult. 13-year-old Mark Blackwood is so dissatisfied with his family life that he runs away, encountering many people, one of whom being a recruiter for the Redemption House, a shelter for lost souls. Overjoyed, Mark thinks he finally found a place where he'll belong but quickly discovers how wrong... and right... he is.
Taking the HENSEL & GRETEL children story one step further and adding elements of LORD OF THE FLIES, Stephen Gresham creates a unique and effective boys-in-jeopardy tale with a ghostly undertone. His main character Mark is a strong, resourceful young man who soon becomes the leader of a bunch of colorful secondary characters. Among them is the solver of all problems Digger; physically challenged but very strong Ocie; bad-tempered and elusive Zack; and paternal Dealy who is the glue to this reconstructed family. It is through him that the boys will interact, expressing their most secret thoughts. This is where Gresham shines the most, in his ability to cut through the obvious and to go deeper into the psyche of his people. It is clearly evident that he knows a thing or two about teenage angst.
The adults, here, are mostly evil, with the exception of two "outsiders" who, like the teens themselves, are trapped in their own web of unhappiness. The sudden awareness of their inner strength helps move the plot to a highly satisfying conclusion. Suspenseful, scary, yet surprisingly touching, RUNAWAY will surely gather new fans while captivate current ones.
Until next post—Martin