THE SCHOOL by T.M. Wright


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Once upon a time, horror writers--Lovecraft, Machen, M.R. James--fed on shadows, not gore. Today, one of the few to carry on that tradition of ""quiet"" horror is Wright (The Place, 1989; Strange Seed, 1978; a slew of paperback originals in between)--who here imagines a deserted grade school as the setting for a carefully crafted ghost story that whispers of menace and the mysteries of death. Frank and Allison Hitchcock are the middle-aged couple who, still reeling from their son's death, buy and move into an abandoned school (""bare and utilitarian"") in Upstate New York. Very soon, the Hitchcocks learn they're not alone: voices sound in the hall outside their classroom-cum-bedroom: weird smells assault them; Allison senses eyes watching as she washes in the gym's showers. At first, the manifestations are eerie but not threatening; genuinely frightening, however, are the weird events that transpire on the school's side road--which turns into a kind of Mobius strip, trapping cars that are then stalked by a huge dog and a lumbering man: the ghost of a teacher who, years before, died along with some kids in a tragedy at the school? Meanwhile, back at the school, the narrative darkens as Wright subtly shades in spooky doings: visits from oddly stiff neighbors--more ghosts?: the discovery of a hidden chamber beneath the school stage; cracks in the school's structure as ""stress"" grows and ""an entity"" gathers strength--the spirit of the Hitchcocks' dead son? Indeed--so that the school's final House-of-Usher-retread crumbling sounds a note not of Poe-like melancholy but of hope. As flavorful as a fine bottle of vintage wine--shrouded in black-widow spider webs.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 1990
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's