THE WANTING by Campbell Black

THE WANTING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another chiller from the author of Letters from the Dead (1985) as well as many pseudonymous thrillers under the name of Thomas Altman. Letters was a lovely example of a muted, misty ghost-story, more Henry James than Stephen King; while Black offers the same sensitive characterization, he stumbles with a plot that incorporates some creaky elements (vampire-like beings--led by a blood-drinker from eastern Europe, no less) and a central revelation that most readers will guess halfway through the text. When Max and Louise Untermeyer rent a summer house in the chic country community of Carnarvon, California, their only neighbors are a cheerful ex-hippie named Frog, who ""grew Sideways"" instead of up, and a reclusive old couple, Dick and Charlotte Summers. Soon the Summerses are plying the Untermeyers' son Dennis with all sorts of mysterious sweets, giving him a foul substance (""Magic Bait,"" they call it) to store in his bedroom, and otherwise acting like weirdos out of Grimm. In due time various townspeople lapse into insanity, something awful happens to Frog, and the local sheriff wonders why over the decades so many Carnarvon children have died from a strange ailment. For some reason, Black refrains from naming this disease until the end of the story--a clumsy attempt at suspense, one presumes--although anyone who reads medical journals or supermarket tabloids will recognize it as progeria (rapid aging in children) right off the bat. It turns out that the Summerses (ah, so that's why they have that name!) are enjoying an endless summer of youth by using witchcraft to steal the life from their younger friends. . . a secret that will surprise no one, although the gory, grim finale will leave a few readers feeling distinctly distressed. Any Black novel belongs in the permanent collections of horror/ thriller fans, but this one can be shelved in the back, where the dust gathers. Not bad, with a nice moldy air of degeneracy about it, but a disappointment nonetheless.

Pub Date: July 28th, 1986
Publisher: McGraw-Hill