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BOOK REVIEWS: February 2001
By Paula Guran

THE WHISPERER AND OTHER VOICES
by Brian Lumley
Tor/ $24.95/ 352 pages
ISBN: 0312876955

book cover Lumley's long-running Necroscope series has brought him many fans, but few realize just how good a writer he can be until they stumble across his shorter fiction, most notably collected in FRUITING BODIES AND OTHER FUNGI. New collection THE WHISPERER AND OTHER VOICES gathers nine works published from 1971 through 1991 and will certainly serve to remind readers of his talents. Lumley is at his best when pulling off the difficult trick of combining humor with sheer horror as in "The Disapproval of Jeremy Cleave" and "The Luststone." "The Return of the Deep Ones," a short novel, is the epitome of Lovecraftian influence. ("For a moment the vile trickling paused as that single eye gazed at me, the loathsome orb melted back into its elementary slime and the flow continued at a redoubled rate..." Oh yeah!) "The Whisperer" is a very British, very effective little nightmare. A sublimely creepy, wonderfully weird collection from a modern master.

FROST
by Donald Wandrei, D. H. Olson (Editor)
Fedogan & Bremer/ $29/ 306 pages
ISBN: 1878252429

book cover In 1934, the hottest pulp fiction market was for the mystery. To serve the market, Donald Wandrei dutifully created the series characters of scientist/inventor-detective Prof I.V. "Ivy" Frost and his lovely, lethal (she packed a pearl-handled .25 in a thigh-holster) assistant Jean Moray for periodical CLUES DETECTIVE STORIES. Unlike his popular peers in the pulps -- the hard-boiled, hard-drinking, street-savvy private eyes -- the enigmatic Frost mixed the logic of Sherlock Holmes and science fictional technology to solve crimes. (His bag of high tech tricks include explosives, infra-red detectors, concealed cameras, noxious gas, various curious weapons, and a diving suit that fits in a valise. Frost even has a Batmobile-like car, The Demon. He also smoked "peculiar cigarettes.") This D.H. Olson-edited collection of eight stories is the first of Frost stories to be published. (The remaining ten are slated for future publication.) If you have even the smallest taste for premium pulp, FROST stands up as truly enjoyable period fiction -- even if the cold, impassive, inscrutable Frost never warms up to the fetching and feisty Jean.

DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON
by Joseph Curtin
Kensington/$5.99/ 384 pages
ISBN: 0786013095

book cover First horror novels are unusual works of art. They have to combine enough of what some editor somewhere thinks will "sell" -- therefore is an amalgam of all that has come before -- with a strong enough, distinct enough writerly voice to be heard above the rumbling herd. Either that or the writer has to become a celebrity first. Joseph Curtin is not a celebrity, so he chooses a familiar theme (vampires), adds another familiar theme (Elizabeth Bathory, torturer/killer of seventeenth century Hungarian maidens), adds another familiar theme (ancient evil reborn in modern form), and another (subservience to Dark Powers), and another (rock'n'roll). and then leaps about in history (prologue- 1614, chapter one -1959, in chapter eight it is back to the 40s with background and then into the 60s for the action) before finally settling into a nostalgic 1977 (in chapter nine). He compounds this with characters -- even minor ones -- who have vivid gory dreams, then writes it in an excessive style that reads as if the author were being paid a penny a word (therefore using plenty) and has been forbidden to ever use a noun like "pencil" when "2B Grumbacher" is available. The plot boils down to: Countess Liz gets reborn, finds blonde southern belle Chloe, munches on Chloe's brother, then leads Chloe down the Left-hand Path to 1977 and a garage band (inexplicably named GloryDaze) on the brink of the Big Time. (Weren't we all in 1977?) Bad Things -- described with many adjectives -- happen. This is the work of a man who has seen too many Creature Features, read too many paperbacks, and whose first crush was Vampirella. But , hey, that's also the over-the-top joy of it. Curtin's talent may currently be on the literary par with B-movies, but he keeps you turning the pages and munching the unpretentious popcorn. Not great literature, but a good read. Publishing fortunes have been based on less.


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