ESCARDY GAP by Peter Crowther


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 Very long fantasy/horror debut novel that doesn't pick up steam for 250 pages, then becomes passably inventive of its kind. Crowther and Lovegrove's story burdens itself with a dreary, clichÇ-strewn opening (a novel-within-the-novel) about an old, self-pitying, burned-out Manhattan novelist suffering with writer's block. When he does suddenly begin to write again, he tells about the arrival of a mysterious train at Escardy Gap, an idyllic village. For the next several hundred pages, the authors paste together genre banalities; Escardy Gap itself is a flimsy site, filled with stereotypical townsfolk/murder victims. The train brings a fairly (by contrast) distinct crew of demons, called The Company, who are deceptively pleasant before they begin maiming, disembowelling, or poisoning the innocent people who welcome them into their homes. Their leader is the aimless but murderous Jeremiah Rackstraw. His troupe includes Mr. Olesqui, a midget who kills with tobacco smoke; Boy, whose handless arms create their own forms of energy; Buzz Beaumont, who spews great fireballs of electricity; Agnes Destiny, who trails bunches of limp phalli (her own) along the floor; Clarence, a shapechanger who can mimic anybody or reinvent himself as a monster; Felcher the poisoner; and rhymester Neville N. Nolan, Rackstaw's Ariel, who can transform himself into a giant horsefly with gemlike eyes, capable of finding anyone anywhere. Also appearing: Alecto, Atrops, and Aegle, ravishingly beautiful Man-eaters who give new meaning to the term vagina dentata. The more-or-less heroine is beautiful young Sara Sienkeiwicz, who publishes stories in Weird Tales and, like Faulkner's Eula Mae Varner, drives all men mad. Her role is entirely passive, since the old writer (who increasingly loses control of his own story to The Company) tries to frustrate the efforts of his own youthful hero, Josh Knight, to save her, preserving Sara for himself. Lighthearted butchery, an intermittently lively dance around the maypole staged in an abattoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-86210-5
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996


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