Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Devil's of D-Day by Graham Masterton

The kind of review deserving of the title ‘from the vault.’ Somewhat tacky, but useful in the dismantling of an older work. After previously appraising numerous new releases, I found a brief window to embark upon something smaller. Oftentimes a reader, much like any writer, might feel the need to take a step back in between longer projects. (In King’s world think The Body and Apt Pupil flanked by works like The Dead Zone and The Dark Half). For my own part, exploring the vast catalogue of the Graham Masterton factory has always been something on the agenda.

Over thirty years after the infamous D-Day landings, Dan McCook returns to Normandy as nothing more than a cartographer for a book about World War Two. In his travels, he encounters two men who whisper of battlefield ghosts and point the way to an abandoned Allied tank. Deciding a picture might be good for the book, he locates the rusted hulk and bumps into a farmer’s daughter (Madeleine) who illuminates rumors of hauntings affecting the area … with the derelict tank a central-crux for the malign anecdotes. After consulting a local priest on the tank and its history, Dan McCook then decides it’s high time to solve the conundrum and open it up. Abruptly he is swept up into an satanic world where thirteen demons who inhabited the realm as flesh desire to walk again …

Graham’s first person narration is clear and home-spun. This is a prolific author who was born to write (I can’t put it more succintly). There’s an everyman quality to the syntax, layers of prose reminiscent of James Herbert without English nuances. At the time of publication, I doubt it was meant to feel nostalgic, but traversing through Normandy under bleak skies and snowy environs with the Devil of Swords, Daggers, and Razors as a companion the reader will feel just that. One of the hazards with this kind of book lies with the supernatural material; one might find that during this modern era, the threat of Satan and Demons (biblical baddies) parading around in fiction just isn’t scary. But we remember the story was conceived at the time of The Omen and The Exorcist. Knowing this, a reader can suspend disbelief and happily get lost in the tale.   

At times, the climax is somewhat ill-fitting; Graham describes wonderful, hellish creatures almost Lovecraftian in their finery, but has them espouse language like uneducated humans. All that aside, the images are harrowing and graphic; the dues ex machina involving a certain character ultimately one that pays off.

Highly recommended for those wanting to take a trip down the genre's more humbling past.