The Lancer cover shown is the best one I can see on the net. My own legend edition has a silvery cover which I'm afraid doesn't scan well.
The opening of The influence is similar to that of Campbell’s short story The Winner with the houses of Liverpool’s streets dwarfed by the monstrous bulks of ships. There’s also more than a hint of early German surrealist films.
From the first page:
“Darkness several storeys high carried windows past the end of the street, as if Queenie’s house had floated loose from its foundations. It was a ship beyond the dunes, and the dark bulk from behind which it sailed was Queenie’s house, towering massively over its neighbours. Up among its chimneys and haphazard slaty slopes, Queenie’s window glared towards the bay.”
This is the scene which greets Alison as she returns home after a day’s nursing. When she gets home, there will be more nursing, as Queenie, the family’s ancient and oppressive matriarch, is dying.
Knowing that Queenie is reaching the end, Alison, her husband Derek and their seven year old daughter Rowan have moved into the house with Alison’s sister Hermione.
Hermione becomes hysterical at the funeral when she learns that Queenie will be buried wearing a locket with a lock of Rowan’s hair in it. She remembers the way Queenie could exert her manipulative influence in life - sometimes agonisingly. And right up to the end, Queenie had insisted she would never die.
Soon after the funeral, Rowan meets another young girl, Vicky, who’s manner is strangely old-fashioned and superior. She gives Rowan a strange pair of binoculars and tells her that one day she must come to her house. There are bizarre deaths, first that of an electrician who has won a contract over Derek, then of Alison’s paedophile cousin Lance (quite a sympathetic character, in fact) - who suffers a horrible death in the underground on his way to see Rowan.
Hermione becomes obsessed with the locket which Queenie was wearing when she was buried, and in a chilly scene decides to dig up the corpse. Rowan is in the graveyard and sees all. The scenes which follow when she wakes up alone and begins to make her way home in the dark, are masterly. There is an extremely eerie moment when she approaches a telephone box and sees that it’s inhabited by something unusually tall, then glimpses something crawling along the road, following her, by the lights of a passing car.
There’s also a strange village which she finds down a curious tunnel through the trees:
The white cottages multiplied as far as she could see, an unbroken shadowless terrace of them on each side of the road, beneath the lamps that looked exactly like household bulbs standing on their heads. Since there were no front gardens and no gaps between the cottages, there was nowhere anyone could hide.”
I’ve read at least five other Ramsey Campbell novels. I think this one is up there with the best of them – possibly the best.
Good stuff, Francisco. Would be very grateful if you were to share some more cover scans from Spanish editions.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
I'm reading it and it is becoming more and more interesting, the style of Campbell at first was a bit difficult for me but when you read through the book the plot and the story become almost a page turner, from Campbell I only have read Midnight sun (excellent) and a few stories in anthologies but I'm going to read more Campbell, at least he has the fortune of having been translated to Spanish, not like other giants of modern horror like Karl Edward Wagner, Dennis Etchison, Charles L Grant or Steve Rasnic Tem