Books by John Saul

John Saul was born in Pasadena, California on February 25, 1942, and grew up in Whittier where he graduated from Whittier High School in 1959. He attended several colleges—Antioch, in Ohio, Cerritos, in Norwalk, California, Montana State University and Sa

Released: Oct. 1, 2009

"The storytelling is strenuously unnuanced but undeniably powerful as it brings to vivid life an adolescent's zero-sum view of moral realities."
Hit-or-miss horrormeister Saul (Faces of Fear, 2008, etc.) drops a vulnerable teenager into a new town with no friends but a schizophrenic, a witch and a big old house. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 23, 2005

"Just the thing for readers who think there's nothing worse than trying to sell your house in the suburbs."
Veteran suspense-monger Saul (Midnight Voices, 2002, etc.) manages to mess up the foolproof story of a family whose teenaged daughter is kidnapped. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

"Readers unfamiliar with earlier versions may well be carried away, mainly by the immense research Saul has put into his tunnels and underground societies, less so by the strained melodrama."
Saul's new suspense brainchild rips off Richard Connell's much admired 1924 short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," a work so boredom-proof that this takeoff is no dangerous gambit. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2001

"Rosemary's Remake, with a richly entertaining demonic payoff."
Saul (The Manhattan Hunt Club, 2001, etc.) rings some changes on a classic horror storyline. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2000

"The stronger themes here can't even be hinted at. But the story grips for a solid three- or four-hour read, which makes it a success."
Author Saul rewrites Psycho in his own image. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1999

Saul's twentysomethingth horror novel begins with vacuous overwriting that improves only slightly as he settles into a banality far less fresh than his better stuff (The Presence, 1997; Shadows,1992, etc.). In the prologue, a woman fearing that she's given birth to a creature of pure evil suffocates her newborn, while her husband eviscerates and hangs himself from a nearby tree. Next we meet Janet Conway, her three children (Jared, Kimberly, and baby Molly), and her alcoholic husband Ted, from whom she wants to split. But Ted, an assistant hotel manager just fired for drinking, has inherited a hulking old Victorian house in St. Albans, Louisiana, from his Aunt Cora, the crazy woman in the prologue. When the Conways go to St. Albans to look at the house, they find that a clause in the inheritance insists that their children must attend parochial school or else Ted, a lapsed Catholic, can't claim ownership. Ted's decision is to turn the hulk into a hotel, living in it during the transition—and so it is that young Kimberly starts hearing her great-aunt's suffocated baby wailing through the night. DÇjÖ vu? Stephen King's The Shining, anyone? As the house is gradually repaired room by room, the town seeks to withhold permits for Ted's hotel because rumors abound of Satanism and devil worship taking place inside it. Meantime, when Kim's new friend Sandy sleeps over, she too begins to be drawn into the weird haze (as well as voices) that has swamped the house. Menaces seen and unseen float everywhere; reptilian demons arise; and Kim finds herself lost in a pagan cathedral. Are these events only her nightmares? On Halloween does Jared actually eviscerate their dog Scout? When Janet opens a door to find an abyss, is it real? Willing suspension of disbelief is one thing, but asking a reader to go along with immeasurably overfamiliar storytelling effects is another. (Literary Guild/Doubleday Main Selection) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

A suspenseful thriller from the prolific and craftsmanlike Saul (The Homing, 1993, etc.) that moves like a dream through its paradisiacal Hawaiian landscape. As in his Black Lightning (1995), the lungs here are the focus of the story. In that tale, a serial killer left SS-like black lightning bolts on the pleural cavities of his victims. This time, victims' lungs suddenly become allergic to oxygen and can live only on fumes—those of ammonia, for example—that are normally poisonous. The action begins when Dr. Katharine Sundquist, an archaeologist specializing in early hominids in Africa, is hired for a three-month term to work on bones recently discovered near a vent in a volcano on Maui. Hiring her is a research lab owned by a superrich Japanese medical entrepreneur. Also on hand are a handsome fellow archaeologist who once courted the now widowed Katharine, and her son Michael, who's been overcoming asthma through physical training. When he and three Hawaiian friends go for a night dive, they come upon an underwater area contaminated by a geode from outer space. Back on land, they find that their lungs can't tolerate oxygen. How and why does the geode affect normal breathing? And what of the strange hominid-like bones Katharine patiently unearths? They look like those of early man, which is impossible, since Maui didn't exist when the first humans evolved. Are the bones somehow tied to the geode? Then it turns out that an astronomer in a Maui observatory has been studying a peculiar star some 15 million years old that seems to be sending out a radio signal, which eventually he interprets as a DNA code. Yipes! Folks from outer space are sending DNA code to planet Earth? Saul handily ties all of these elements together in a terse, provocative narrative. Nicely done indeed: strange, disturbing goings-on, with only two spoonsful of outrageous melodrama. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1995

Bestselling horror writer Saul (The Homing, 1994, etc.) presents the serial killer you can't kill, even with 2,000 volts of electricity flooding through him for two minutes. When Seattle reporter Anne Jeffers attends the execution of Richard Kraven, she's given Kraven's last interview, during which the genius murdererwhose victims are numberlessswears he's innocent. Is it possible that Kraven was possessed by an evil entity, an entity passed into Kraven from his abusive father, who used electricity to torture Richard as a child? Author Saul does not spell it out completely, but when Kraven is electrocuted by the state, his soul leaps into the body of Anne Jeffers's architect husband Glen, who happens to die of a heart attack just then and is brought back to life. Kraven takes over Glen's mind and will ``prove'' to Anne that Richard Kraven was an innocent man. How? By performing new serial murders that, as before, leave a secret sign in the victims' pleural cavity, a pair of black lightning bolts, that only the police know about. At the same time, though, there's a copycat murderer abroad, who also eviscerates his victims as did Kraven. That turns out to be his very dumb brother Rory, whom Kraven murders along with their mother. Meanwhile, Anne gets gaslighted by threats that pop up on her computer, then disappear. Will Kraven/Glen murder her two children in his search for the Life Force? Well, there's no end to murder, since with a twinkle Saul indicates that even with the villain seemingly disposed of, the entityas in any number of taleslives on. Evil genius Kraven lacks the concrete weight on the page of Thomas Harris's serial killers, but no matter. However banal the plot, the suspense works, ensuring the readership of many. (Literary Guild alternate selection) Read full book review >
THE HOMING by John Saul
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

In his contrived but fast-paced thriller, bestselling novelist Saul (Guardian, 1993) does for insects what Hitchcock's The Birds did for our feathered friends. The action takes place in central California, where a teenage girl running away from home to escape her mother's lecherous boyfriend reinvents herself as Dawn Morningstar en route to Hollywood. She unwisely accepts a ride from a stranger who turns out to be entomologist Carl Henderson, an evil genius who, before Dawn's dreadful death, holds her hostage in the dank basement of his Pleasant Valley home, making her the object of monstrous experiments with bees, scorpions, ants, etc. At around the same time, widow Karen Spellman travels to Pleasant Valley from Los Angeles with her two daughters, nine-year-old Molly and sullen teenager Julie. Karen is getting hitched to her high school sweetheart, Russell Owen, who owns a farm, some horses, and a barn full of beehives with which Carl has been fooling around on the sly. After Molly nearly dies from a strangely virulent bee sting, Julie investigates, gets assaulted by Carl, and is stung herself while trying to flee. Russell's cranky father, Otto, saves her, but Carl tampers with the experimental antivenin the local clinic gives Julie, hoping it will be lethal. Instead, the chemical compound turns her into a ravenous queen bee host who seduces boys by the bizarre technique of spewing forth a swarm of the buzzing, biting creatures. ``And from Julie's mouth emerged a swirling black cloud, a dark and writhing mist that split instantly into dozens of serpentine tongues...and curled around Jeff Larkin's head like tentacles,'' writes Saul with characteristic hyperbole. His excessive style will never win him any literary prizes, but it's creepily compelling. A skillful manipulation of primal fears about the natural world and the corruption of innocence. Read full book review >
GUARDIAN by John Saul
Released: Aug. 1, 1993

Saul's 16th horror novel (Shadows, 1992, etc. etc.) finds the author in a less horrific, even speakable mode, since the pivotal plot device seems possible, if definitely unlikely. Maryanne Carpenter was abandoned by her husband for a younger, prettier, richer woman, and now he wants to return to her and young Alison and Logan. Meanwhile, Maryanne is the godmother of Joey Wilkeson, and when Joey's wealthy parents both die in accidents on their fabulous Western mountain retreat, Maryanne flies to Joey to care for him—and discovers that as Joey's guardian, she's now wealthy herself and need never work again. The pubescent Joey, however, is odd, loves to fade into the hills with his dog and stay away for long periods. What's more, townsfolk have a strong aversion to him. At the same time, a shadowy figure haunts the mountain retreat and soon more bodies drop, horribly bloodied. Does Joey have something to do with these deaths? He, in fact, has strangely inhuman characteristics and is turning into the wolfboy son of the shadowy figure—a man to whom government scientists once gave the DNA of a wolf to discover what immunities he might come up with. But the wolf DNA bonded with his own, and his physical structure and appetite changed so drastically that he parted from mankind and for 14 years has lived in the wilderness—a killer. He and Joey's mother, though, had been lovers and now his DNA has bonded with Joey's. Wisely, as with Lon Chaney, Jr.'s, Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man, Saul works up some sympathy for his canine killers who, after all, are victims of the moon as well as of the government and those hunting them down. Bound for bestsellerdom—like many of Saul's others. Read full book review >
SHADOWS by John Saul
Released: June 15, 1992

Donovan's Brain meets The Lawnmower Man. Bestseller horror novelist Saul (Second Child, Darkness, Creature, etc.) lands on the money again with one of his best—or least offensive—tales of psychological suspense. What's more, he's tuned in with Stephen King's current smash movie The Lawnmower Man, with a plot that turns in part on the novelty of computerized Virtual Reality games. Even more, his ending is ``virtually'' identical with the film's. Readers with long memories will recall Curt Siodmak's once vastly well-known, thrice-filmed story Donovan's Brain, about a scientist dominated by a dead industrialist's brain that he keeps alive in his lab. In Saul's story, a gothicky California genius academy for gifted kids is having trouble with suicide-prone students, and the deaths are piling up. Ten-year-old Josh MacCallum's best friend at the academy is Amy Carlson, though he's also buddies with the Aldritch twins, Jeff and Adam, who try to suck him into their Virtual Reality game. Then Adam kills himself, throwing himself in front of a train at night. But did he? Well, his body is crushed. But it seems that the suicides at the academy were also the smartest students, which includes the twins and suggests that IQ chartbusters Josh and Amy are marked for death. But...really? Well, no—because the academy's president, evil Dr. George Engersol, and his warm-smiling, ice- water housekeeper Hildie Kramer have been faking the suicides after removing the victim's...well, should we tell you?...and keeping it alive and blooming in a secret lab where the ``dead'' are plugged into the world's greatest computer, a Croyden, and can operate it by tiny impulses and create...virtual...reality.... Small-scale but a grabber, despite bedrock banality. Read full book review >

Saul's 12th horror novel in 12 years—an undemanding but slick tale of biological tampering that matches the relative best of his huge-selling mass-market paperback originals (Suffer the Children, Nathaniel, The Unwanted) and that far outpaces his one previous hard-cover, The God Project (1982). There might be a new idea somewhere in this brisk story of a mad doctor toying with teen-age boys' hormones to produce homo perfectus (and the occasional Neanderthal-like boo-boo), but it's hard to see for all of Saul's useful borrowings from Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, much of Robin Cook, and Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives. Moreau is played here by Dr. Marty Ames, who conducts his lunacy under the guise of providing ultrahigh-tech athletic training for the high-school teams of Silverdale, Colo., the Rocky Mountain R&D headquarters of the giant Tarrentech Corp.—which hopes to profit from Ames' wacky treatments of organic disease. Ames' eyes gleam when runty Mark Tanner, stunted by rheumatic fever, moves to town, and before long Mark's spending time at Ames' lab and growing inches and muscles just like the other guys at Rocky Mountain High. But like too many subjects of Ames' unperfected techniques, Mark grows a whopping temper and fang-like teeth, too, and soon is staying out late and strangling the family dog. And as if that isn't enough to worry his stalwart mom, Saul's heroine, then just wait until she sees him loping around the lab with two fellow apeman who are busy maiming and killing. Cruise control all the way. Of interest is the astonishing fact that the publisher is charging a dollar less for this hard-cover than for the author's 1982 one, which they also published; this deflationary pricing, plus a promised 100,000 printing and big ad campaign, could give Saul his first hard-cover best seller. Read full book review >