Post by dreadlocksmile on Jul 25, 2009 16:40:22 GMT
First published back in 1987, Guy N Smith’s novel ‘Demons’ formed the sequel to the popular 1980 title ‘Deathbell’. The novel ‘Deathbell’ sat within the Hamlyn publication period of Smith’s career, which is widely considered to be the ‘golden’ period of his lustrous career. The later sequel of ‘Demons’ was published by Arrow, which also saw the releases of the novels ‘Thirst II: The Plague’, ‘Alligators’ and ‘Bloodshow’ within the same year.
The novel is once again set within the quaint village of Turbury, where a decade ago Martyn Hamilton had erected his giant Deathbell, which he had used to control his son with who had become one of the slaves to the Seekers of Silence. This strange cult was formed in the mountains of Tibet, where the priests worshipped the deafening chimes of the Deathbells; cutting off the ears of their followers, allowing only the sound of the gigantic Deathbells to penetrate their eardrums. The chimes made these poor unfortunates into slaves, driving them in their madness to acts of bestial savagery.
Ten years after the death of the Hamilton family, the Deathbell has once again been erected within the chapel of the Caelogy Hall. The local thug Dai Charlton and his two nervous friends were responsible for this foolish erection of the Deathbell, as a prank during one of their late night excursions. Unsurprisingly, the group of youths come to a nasty end when the Deathbell toll’s a single note, as it steadies itself high up in the now derelict Caelogy Hall.
Over the years, Turbury has slowly died away leaving only a small number of residents remaining in this now ghost like village. After pressure from the local water authority to have the village submerged in water, allowing for a reservoir to take its place so that an enterprise in trout fishing can be realised, the town is evacuated to the nearby community of Bryncalid.
But Turbury doesn’t stay fully submerged for long. Now that the Deathbell had once again been put in action, the water that had submerged it mysteriously dries up. The derelict town of Turbury has seemingly risen from its watery grave, bringing with it the evil that surrounds the Deathbell. The few remaining inhabitants around the area are now cursed by the random tolls of this cursed bell. The haunting chimes turn the local farmer boy Frankie Thomas, into a crazed murderer. The evil of the Deathbell has truly awakened once again.
A band of roaming hippies learn of the deserted village of Turbury, and so after being rejected from the grounds of a nearby magic mushroom festival, move on to the now resurfaced village. These carefree hippies make natural successors to the Deathbell’s original Tibetan worshippers. A human sacrifice is soon required for the Deathbell, and so its chimes ring out summoning a victim from across the local landscape...
Following on from ‘Deathbell’ was never going to be a difficult thing to do. Smith had already set down the impressively original premise to this book, with this unique idea of a bell that turns its deafened followers into savage murderers.
However, with ‘Demons’ Smith has produced a novel that plods along at a broken pace, never really getting anywhere until the final couple of chapters. This fractured and ultimately loose storyline makes the tale seem like small snippets of an ongoing story.
There are moments of real underlying darkness within the novel that will satisfy any good Guy N Smith fan. The chapter where the reservoir drains away, revealing the figure of a man squirming in the mud around the derelict and decaying village of Turbury, is truly a haunting moment.
The rampage of Frankie Thomas on his parents and his nearest neighbour, Vicki Mason, is nothing short of classic pulp horror violence. In ‘Demons’, Smith has managed once again to reflect the true power of the evil that is given off by the Deathbell. Smith’s descriptive nature of the madness induced by the clanging tones of the bell is remarkably eerie. The inclusion of the first-person-perspective at the moments when the madness hits them, adds another creepy dynamic to the tale.
Alas, for all of its strong points, ‘Demons’ falls short on so many others. The developing relationship between the principal characters of Aden Darrell (the new bailiff for Turbury reservoir) and Vicki Mason (Turbury school’s ex-principal) is laughable. Within a matter of a paragraph the two are practically lovers. Within the space of a few chapters you’re thinking wedding bells will be accompanying the Deathbell.
The characterisation throughout the novel is otherwise of a rich and well developed nature. As with many of Smith’s novels, the more undesirable of the characters within the book are given prominent characteristics. This helps to bring them to life more in the short amount of time that they are present in the developing storyline.
The grande finale is dramatic and conclusive, with a real edge-of-the-seat ending wrapping up the whole Deathbell series. The ultimate conclusion is somewhat predictable due to suggestions towards its plausibility hinted at a mere twenty odd pages beforehand.
What remains confusing once finishing the novel is the chosen title for the book – ‘Demons’. At no point does the reader encounter any demons as such. The cover illustration also seems to hold no true bearing towards much of the storyline as well, which is unlike most other Guy N Smith novels.
All in all, Smith’s novel ‘Demons’ is an enjoyable pulp horror read, with plenty of over the top action and violence surrounded by dark horror, to keep any fan of this style of writing happy. Not quite as fast paced as many of Smith’s other novels, the storyline does stop and start on frequent occasions. In the end, it does make for a suitable sequel to his classic tale ‘Deathbell’.
The novel runs for a total of 184 pages and was published through Arrow Books.
The cover illustration also seems to hold no true bearing towards much of the storyline as well, which is unlike most other Guy N Smith novels. >>
I seem to recall a character gets hung inside a bell as the knocker , which is what I assume inspired the cover?
Guy N. Smith - Demons (Arrow, 1987)
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.
You know, if I were Julian Dane, at the close of events of Deathbell I would have had my local builder stepdad weld up a hood for the thing with a hole at the top and then poured it full of concrete so it could never cause trouble again. Fortunately I am not, and this is how Demons happened. Three petty criminal youths rehang the Deathbell and give it a quick ring for a prank before an evening's poultry rustling. One cops a lot of fish-hooks from an unreasonably vicious booby trap, the other two meet a tree as it steps out in front of their getaway vehicle. Trees really can step out in front of you you know, one did so to me once on the way back from my local. It seems this time that the Deathbell may have more power of its own. Soon we catch up with Vicki Mason from the original, leaving in peace and solitude on a hill overlooking the long declining Turbury, at last in the cusp of watery burial. When the Reverend Rawsthorne died the flow of residents away became unstoppable and the last are to be forced out before it becomes a reservoir. Vicki just has regrets, no more Julian Dane, no partner, just encroaching middle age. This kind of character is not Guy N Smith's forte it has to be said, but she is at least a perfectly amiable sort. And doesn't take up too much time before the Deathbell calls a new acolyte, Tom Rawlinson, one of the old timers from the beginning of the first book. He makes his way into the Caelogy chapel, at the same time as the exhumation of Turbury churchyard for reburial. This goes gloriously wrong, in what I would call a classic Smith set piece so far showing off top fun demented verve. Then Turbury is drowned and all should be well...
It isn't! Nods to Bloodshow and Alligators, both also from 1987. I think Alligators may have been first, published in February, I don't know the dates of Bloodshow or this. The Deathbell definitely has it's own power, it took one ring to wake up and now it's hungry, actively seeking followers. Less grimly mounting violent madness, less gore, more choppily paced spooky weirdness. But there is a clutch of great tensely nasty chapters involving a farm boy enmaddened by the bell crazies and out for satisfaction. Plus Vicki meets and almost instantly falls in love with Aden, a nice man from the water board. He's a good old Smith salt of the earth type and good company, and their lightning love is amusing, even a little charming. The second half of the novel does dip a little though. A good old Smith evil executive turns up and is swiftly forgotten about, some good old Smith filthy stinking idiot law breaking hippies turn up and stay. The pace lags and there isn't the underlying dark suspense and mystery of the first novel to sustain things. Don't worry! The climax is a ripsnorter! Supernatural build up wrought with real skill, some of the more legitimately eerie work I've read yet from Smith, and then one of his most satisfying pay offs and an amusing turn around. Left me with a big silly grin on my face.
Altogether I think this does lack the x factor that made Deathbell as powerful as it was. It's goofier, and not as flowing, and not as nasty. But I did have as much fun reading it, and sometimes that's just what you need. Warmly recommended.