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The Forgotten
      Haunted
      Thunder Road
Tamara Thorne
      Tamara Thorne
      Tamara Thorne
Pinnacle Books, 384 pages
      Pinnacle Books, 480 pages
      Pinnacle Books, 499 pages

The Forgotten
Haunted
Thunder Road
Tamara Thorne
Tamara Thorne is a lifelong student of the paranormal, folklore, and shameless humor. She is the author of such supernatural thrillers as The Forgotten, Bad Things, Eternity, and Thunder Road, amongst others. She has also written horror novels, based in research but often slightly tongue-in-cheek, including Haunted, Moonfall, and The Sorority Trilogy. Thorne and her husband, Damien, spend their spare time hoping not to sleep in haunted hotel rooms and prowling other anomalous sites, hoping to be accosted by poltergeists, falls of frogs, or phantom jackalopes. A Fortean, she goes ghost-hunting as often as possible, always hoping to encounter anomalies or at least expose a fraud or two. She is currently at work on a ghostly new novel based on a real southwestern haunting.

Author's website
INTERVIEWS: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
BOOK REVIEWS:

  • Bad Things: 1, 2
  • Candle Bay: 1, 2, 3
  • Eternity: 1
  • Eve: 1, 2, 3
  • The Forgotten: 1
  • Haunted: 1, 2
  • Moonfall: 1
  • The Sorority:
  • Thunder Road: 1, 2
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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The Forgotten

The Forgotten (2002) is about covert government testing of mind-altering microwaves under the cover of upgrading cable TV systems. "Shame of you!" you say, "you should have warned me there were spoilers in your review!" Well, actually, it's really not much of a spoiler, since that which incites a number of people to exhibit strange behaviour and experience visions becomes abundantly clear -- before being stated explicitly -- very early on in The Forgotten. While it does lead certain characters to tackle emotional issues they had left buried, and exposes a fratricidal murderer --hence the title -- it does little else. Perhaps the covert microwaves have already desensitized my brain, but to me there was virtually no mystery, no suspense, no tangible threat, no conspiratorial paranoia, nothing to make a series of, at best, startling events more than the sum of its parts. Tamara Thorne's characters are well enough developed, realistic everyday people; her writing clear, straightforward and almost reportorial in its lack of any poetic flourishes, and the story and plotting internally consistent. However, The Forgotten left me indifferent to the point that after a week I had to refer back to a copy of the book to remember even the outlines of the plot, beyond good guys win, bad guys lose.

Thunder Road

Thunder Road was originally published in 1995 under T. Thorne's pseudonym of Chris Curry. The small Californian desert community of Madelyn is populated with a wide variety of people: a reformed serial killer in hiding, an amoral teenage serial killer in training, a doomsday religious cult with a con-artist leader who has just seen the light, his sadistic and violent but not too bright lieutenants, a pair of UFOlogists and their shadowy government nemesis, some honest to goodness UFOs, and a complement of good-ol'-boy (and girl) ranchers -- and damn if it ain't the ol' Apocalypse a-comin' to town, on the heels of four horsemen. It's a wonder Mulder and Scully didn't show up! All this is an excuse for a number of murders, mutilations and sundry other riotous behaviour by cult members, and serial killers alike, but with no apparent central theme or purpose -- perhaps it's just entropy gone wild in anticipation of the End of the World. I suppose I may be jaded or desensitized to horror, but I found Thunder Road not the least bit horrifying or even creepy, not even graphic enough to shock or disgust, utterly lacking in atmosphere or mystery and barely capable of sustaining any suspense. It's not that there aren't any situations with the potential to be suspenseful, it just that the suspense is almost immediately written out of them. The characters are fairly well developed, but then, from almost the very beginning, we know who the good and bad guys are, what their motivations and basic modus operandi are, and ultimately what's going to happen -- the good guys win, the bad guys lose, details to follow -- ho-hum.

The Haunted

OK, I'll have to admit that Haunted (1995) if somewhat formulaic, and prone to attempting to achieve horror through blood and gore and sex (this is not one for the kiddies to read), rather than atmosphere -- was much more entertaining that either of the other titles reviewed. The setting is the standard old house by the sea, site of unspeakable mass murders and voodoo deviltry. Where The Haunted works better than Thunder Road or The Forgotten is that it doesn't give away the ending right from the start. Sure it's obvious that the horror writer who has come to Baudey House, his daughter, and a host of local characters are going to, at some point reprise the roles of the bloody murderess and her tortured, ritually murdered victims, but it thankfully isn't entirely clear who is to be who until quite late in the proceedings.

The manner in which Thorne presents the binding of victims' souls in voodoo doll receptacles, and the other supernatural occurrences in Haunted is informed by both a certain belief -- perhaps drawn from personal experience as an amateur ghost-hunter -- in the unexplained and its potential threat to such intangibles as the soul, and a healthy dose of a modern sceptic's view of hauntings as something presently unexplained, but in no way supernatural or occult in origin, though perhaps posing a direct physical threat. While I am utterly without personal belief in the supernatural or occult, in reading horror one must be ready to suspend personal beliefs and approach the work in the context of the author's apparent belief system. In so reading, the largely if not entirely physical threats presented in Haunted, while more tangible from a rational point of view, are not nearly as unsettling or "scary" or mysterious as the threat to an individual's soul and to the balance of power between good and evil portrayed in the works of earlier authors such as Dennis Wheatley (e.g. Strange Conflict, To the Devil a Daughter), or Montague Summers (e.g. The Vampire his Kith and Kin, The Werewolf), who both seemingly had an implicit belief in the supernatural.

Creating a haunted house, with cold spots, sudden odours, rattling doors, mutilated bodies, and so on, does in of itself create a certain atmosphere, which immediately situates us in a horror novel rather than in one of romance or historical biography. However, for the horror to transcend the shock or offensiveness of a blood-bath -- an event now unfortunately all too common on the nightly news -- atmosphere is important -- to me all important, to others perhaps less. Having finished Haunted, I reread Algernon Blackwood's "The Empty House" (1906), and the weakness of Haunted was all the more apparent: there wasn't the unsettling and slowly building creepiness of Blackwood's story. Since perhaps comparing a novel to a short story might not be entirely fair, I scanned a few pages, here and there, of Dorothy Macardle's Uneasy Freehold (1941; a.k.a. The Uninvited), again no comparison. While The Uninvited-Haunted comparison is perhaps more appropriate since both haunted locations are seaside mansions, are the site of a murder, and are haunted by malignant spirits, I can't help but appreciate the subtlety and building atmosphere of the former over the blow by blow physical violence of the latter. The use of brute force horror where subtlety might have been more effective occurs to some degree in all three of these works. Particularly in Haunted, at times describing less than more of the tortures and dismemberments would have been equally if not more effective, not because the descriptions turn one's stomach, but because, at least in my case, my imagination on the one hand, and my reading of eye-witness accounts from such places as Kosovo and Rwanda on the other, are far more horrifying than the worse things presented in Haunted.

The books reviewed here unfortunately fail to generate much in the way of atmosphere or suspense, giving away too much too early, leaving no mystery to unravel. With characters that are well enough drawn as to make them sympathetic and engaging, and writing which is straightforward, clear and unambiguous, they remain, however, fine summer beach fodder.

Copyright © 2005 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.


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