Monday, June 19, 2006
Ramsey Campbell's novels come in two varieties: the supernatural books, typically involving some creepy antediluvian pagan menace re-emerging in modern England, and usually heavily indebted thematically to H.P. Lovecraft; and the mad slasher/kidnapper books. Secret Story falls in the latter category, and is one of the finest such works he's done since The Face That Must Die or Obsession.
Campbell's unique gift is a sort of hallucinatory and extremely paranoid descriptive style that is at times impenetrably oblique, and he loves elaborate and layered puns. In Secret Story he avoids overdoing the former, and drops some good groaners along the way in achievng the latter. The 'hero' of the novel is Dudley Smith, a dangerous psychopath who writes short fiction based on his own killings, scribblings he keeps to himself. His mother discovers these writings and submits a story to a new Liverpool magazine, which decides to publish it. A local filmmaker affiliated with the mag decides to create a movie persona based on Dudley's character. All along everybody is blissfully unaware that Mr. Killogram is real and is writing dialogue for the script, and when Dudley decides to take a staff member from the magazine for his next 'research' project, things get downright harrowing. Read it by the pool or at the beach.