Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: The Devil's of D-Day

This is the kind of review that deserves the title ‘from the vault.’ Somewhat tacky, but useful in the dismantling of an older work. After previously tackling numerous new releases, I found a brief window to embark upon something smaller. Oftentimes a reader, much like a writer, might feel the need to take a step back in between longer projects. (In King’s world think The Body and Apt Pupil in between longer works like The Dead Zone and The Dark Half). For my own part exploring the vast catalogue of the Graham Masterson 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 the rumors of hauntings that have affected 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. Suddenly he is swept up into an ancient world where thirteen demons who inhabited the realm as flesh desire to walk again …

Graham’s first person narration is clear and home-spun. We have here a prolific author who was born to write (I can’t put it more simply). There’s an everyman quality to it, layers of prose injected with a rare quality that is reminiscent of James Herbert without the 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 constant companion the reader will feel just that. One of the hazards with this kind of book is 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 happily suspend belief and get lost in the tale.   

At times the climax is somewhat ill-fitting; Graham describes wonderful, hellish creatures almost Lovecraftian in their finery, but then 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 horror's memory lane.

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