Previously published only in mass-market paperback originals, McCammon makes an impressive major-league debut in the occult...



Previously published only in mass-market paperback originals, McCammon makes an impressive major-league debut in the occult genre: this long novel of two supernaturally gifted brothers may slide into predictable, Good/Evil soul-battling towards the end, but it generates creepy, subtle textures throughout. . . and never lapses into horror-flick crudeness or Straub-ian gobbledygook. The opening section is best--as we're introduced to Ramona Creekmore, a part-Choctaw woman in smalltown/rural 1950s Alabama who (to the dismay of poor farmer-husband John) has the ability to lay angry ghosts to rest, to foresee death. Thus, the Creekmores' young son Billy is soon discovering, with credible terror, that he has inherited his mother's powers: he locates the missing body of a murder victim; he is taunted by the Satanic ""Shape Changer""; he exorcises a ghost in a saw-mill; like his mother, he's feared, needed, yet also ostracized (especially after he foresees--and is blamed for--a fatal high-school-prom accident). And, meanwhile, there are glimpses of another ""charismatic"" boy: Wayne Falconer, son of popular tent-revivalist Jimmy Jed, who seems to have a healing-power--but can't always distinguish between the real thing and the tent-show fakery. What's the connection between the two boys? Why is Jimmy Jed obsessed with righteous hatred for the Creekmores (whom he sees only once, on a revival tour)? Well, as eventually becomes clear, Wayne is Billy's twin brother, given away at birth. So it's inevitable that their divergent paths will cross in the years ahead. Billy, after occult tutelage from his Choctaw grandmother and the Klan-caused death of his father, works for a traveling side-show, loses his virginity, wrestles with the Shape Changer, and attracts ESP researchers from Chicago. Wayne, taking over the late Jimmy Jed's revival circuit, is led astray by evil, decadent tycoon Krepsin (who seeks immortality via Wayne's powers) and maniacally continues his father's hate-campaign--which leads to the murder of Ramona and the abduction of Billy. But good Billy (who knows Wayne's true identity now) does his best to save his tormented brother's soul--a violent showdown on a mid-flight airplane--and Billy serenely walks off with his True Love in the upbeat fadeout. Despite the ultimately disappointing plot: well-above-average spookery--with splendid Southern-town atmosphere, fine character touches (the tragic ambivalence of Billy's father), and one or two deeply scary moments.

Pub Date: May 13, 1983

ISBN: 1439194270

Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983