THE WATCHER by Charles Maclean


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Is narrator Martin Gregory a thoroughgoing madman? Or is he truly a victim of reincarnation, primeval forces, and Satanic manipulation? That's the never-fully-resolved question that will keep quite a few readers going here--even if most of them are likely to wind up feeling a bit cheated. Like Alan Saperstein's Mom Kills Kids and Self, Maclean's novel begins with the matter-of-fact narration of horrific events: N.Y.C. junior exec Martin comes home eager to celebrate his wife's birthday, then calmly butchers their two pet dogs, packaging them as wife Anna's birthday present; he later wakes up in a shabby hotel with bizarre bruises. And, from that point on, the book is divided between Martin's narration (sometimes in diary form) and the notes of his unflappable psychiatrist, Dr. Somerville--who is soon using hypnosis and ""regression therapy"" to explore Martin's previous (real or imagined?) existences. Martin, you see, who is also having violent/sexual visions while awake, reveals a half-dozen reincarnations under hypnosis--nearly all of them involving death and dogs. But, while Dr. S. thinks (or seems to think) that Martin's psyche has fabricated these oddly authentic pasts, Martin comes to believe in his reincarnations--especially after a long, primal flashback to an other-world called Magmel, where Martin (""Magnus"") bas the chance to save the world by gaining possession of a mythic ""crystal."" And so Martin goes searching for proof of his last reincarnation--a Southern G.I. who disappeared just after WW II--and does indeed apparently find: proof of reincarnation; the skeleton of his previous body; and the crystal . . . in the cave where the G.I. died (doomed, like all Magnus descendants, to search for the crystal and thus save mankind). Still: has narrator Martin imagined all this, having been deranged long ago by a childhood murder? Or is he indeed the myth-man he thinks he is--with Dr. Somerville a Satan (complete with seductive Gal Friday) determined to destroy the world's saviour? So it goes--right up through a bell-tower finale, a clanging Martin/Somerville showdown, and the loony-bin fadeout. And, though the iffy approach will fully satisfy neither occultists nor skeptics, Maclean's literate, cleverly engaging, down-to-earth tone will lute in even the un-supernaturally inclined--some of whom will stick around (despite a few fantasia longueurs) to the foggy but theatrical finish.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster