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David Morrell
Subterranean Press, 239 pages

David Morrell
David Morrell is the award-winning author of First Blood, the novel in which Rambo was created. He was born in 1943 in Kitchener, Ontario. At the age of 17, he became a fan of the classic television series, Route 66. Their scripts by Stirling Silliphant so impressed Morrell that he decided to become a writer. In 1966, the work of another writer (Hemingway scholar Philip Young) prompted Morrell to move to the United States, where he studied with Young at Penn State and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American literature. First Blood was published in 1972 while Morrell was a professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. He taught there from 1970 to 1986, simultaneously writing other novels. Eventually wearying of two professions, he gave up his tenure in order to write full time.

David Morrell Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

David Morrell, perhaps better known for his mysteries and adventures, presents us with eight dark, often ironic, always wise, tales.

Madness reigns in "Remains to be Seen," a story about Carlos, who, loyal to his newly deposed dictator, flees with a box which he soon discovers contains the body of the dictator's wife. How his efforts to protect the corpse long enough for the dictator to find them affects him is almost as exciting as the lengths he has to go to do it.

Obsession of a different sort is featured in "Nothing Will Hurt You." Chad's little girl was murdered, and he is completely possessed with the need to see justice done. But will the price, which includes losing his wife and his job, be even higher than he imagined?

In "Elvis .45," Fred wants to teach a course on Elvis Presley, the King of 20th Century culture. He's amazed at how successful this class is, and he finds himself getting lost in the glamor, writing a book on how Elvis influenced everything, even wearing the blue suede shoes. Of course, like in all of Morrell's stories thus far, obsession has its consequences...

The TV script "Habitat" breaks from the themes of the previous stories, but is no less thought provoking. Jane didn't realize she'd signed up for a season in hell when she agreed to become a part of scientific study. Soon she finds herself being put through her paces: electrically shocked when she doesn't do what she's supposed to, sirens scream at her when she's about to relax, making her miserable. How this affects her mind is both heart-breaking and bitter.

"Front Man" introduces us to Mort, a screen writer with an envy-creating list of credits. He's recently taken time off to care for his now deceased wife, and now that he's ready to write again. He can't find work. No one is interested, despite his body of work and talent, because he's simply too old. He stops at a bar where he meets Eric Potter, who at first seems like a godsend, but soon their partnership spirals downward. An ironic and slightly satiric story.

In "Resurrection" nine-year-old Anthony's father is frozen after a laboratory accident exposes him to deadly rays. It's hoped that, eventually, a cure will be found. As the years pass, life continues as it will, and it is not until Anthony is almost 60 that his dream is realized. His father is a 49-year-old man who just the other day had a wife and 9 year old son, and Anthony must adjust to having a father old enough to be his own son. This twist takes the story from the idea of a medical science fiction-like breakthrough to and make it much more an exploration of life itself.

"If I should Die Before I Wake" is based on the huge influenza outbreak of the summer 1918 and follows Dr. Jonas Bingaman as he tries to find ways to stop it. The outbreak starts with just one boy and spreads like fire. It is an amazing photograph of the time, showing how little they knew back then, and how hard such it was to contain. It's a story of bravery as the Doctor tries to help his patients, but in many ways it is also a sad story because of how little could be done and how many were lost.

"Rio Grande Gothic" is about Romero, a policeman who starts finding shoes on the road -- a pair of fairly new ones every day, same place. It piques his curiosity, even thought he doesn't have much time to try and figure it out. He decides to do a stake-out, but of course, he ends up needing to answer the call of nature, and when he comes back there are two cowboy boots laying at the place. He tries to ignore the mystery, but he can't help it. He begins collecting the shoes, and decides to try and stake it out once more. Again he misses his chance to see what happens. His curiosity costs him, but the truth behind how the shoes became available is even more bizarre than how they got there.

As Morrell states in his introduction (a must-read to truly understand the depth of these stories), because of his childhood and his realization of the pain his mother suffered throughout her life, all of these stories, unbeknownst to him, have a theme of obsession. And he's right. Every person in NightScape gets an idea in their head, and it haunts them. They all pay a price for it. Sometimes things end well despite this price, sometimes not, just as in life.

In the beginning, I mention that the stories are wise, and they are. Morrell writes with great intelligence, his characters are all different and fascinating. His stories, which wander over genres a little, over horror, a little into sci-fi, a little into history, are written with great richness of emotion. Sometimes you're terrified, sometimes you're moved to tears.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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