STUNTS by Charles L. Grant


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Usually one of horror's most literate, even lyrical, writers, Grant (In a Dark Dream, 1988, etc.) nearly wears out his poetic license with this vague and rambling tale of an occult affliction--""the shadow of the wolf""--that turns solid citizens into cackling homicidal maniacs. The story's anemia surfaces in the first scene, set on a dark and stormy night. Into the English cottage of Evan Kendal, expatriate Yank high-school teacher, rushes Addie Burwin, distraught because Paul--her husband and Evan's friend--has been missing for weeks. That night, Evan and Addie witness a fatal traffic accident, capped when Paul emerges from the shadows to insist that Evan meet him the next day in London. There, Paul, clearly crumbling physically and mentally, alludes to a curse that's transformed him into ""the hunter,"" with a touch that kills, and vows to kill Evan and Addie, whom he wrongly suspects of having an affair. Terrified, Evan bolts, precipitating a days-long stalk of him and Addie--who eventually do sleep together--by Paul, who grins as he kills others with his hand of death. Meanwhile, the action abruptly shuttles back and forth to Evan's home town of Port Richmond, N.Y., where stereotypical teens are plotting to get back at their hated high-school principal through some Halloween stunts. But unknown to them--and to Evan and Addie, who have fled England for Port Richmond, Paul in hot pursuit--the curse, manifesting as ""a flash of red,"" has fallen on a local man as well: Evan's uncle John, who, after eating some squirrels raw, turns--with coincidental help from a demented teen, and with Paul in the wings--the Halloween-bedecked town into a charnel house without hope (""the shadow of the wolf would linger, and move on. . .""). A message about the meaninglessness of evil lurks in the novel's last line--but to reach it one has to take a dark and dreary march through Grant's weakest novel in years.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1990
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's