DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

You Come When I Call You
Douglas Clegg
CD Publications/ 486 p. /$40
ISBN 1-881475-89-1
Leisure Books/ 393 p./ $5.99
ISBN 0-8439-4695-4

Reviewed by Hank Wagner

I have to say that I was predisposed to like this book, primarily because I've always enjoyed Clegg's work, but also because of its evocative, provocative title, a command many of us have heard or (unfortunately) used, often in moments of extreme tension. The phrase not only captures the main emotions and themes of the book (many of the characters are victims of physical or sexual abuse), but also constitutes a powerful reminder of the perils its characters face.

The book revisits a familiar Clegg theme, namely the iron grip that the past holds over the present. Here, a group of friends is haunted by events which took place in 1980, events which resulted in the virtual annihilation of their hometown of Palmetto, CA. Peter Chandler, Allison Hunt, and Charlie Urquart are among the few who know what really happened to the town, and have spent the next twenty years trying their best to forget.

The town's destruction was orchestrated by Wendy Swan, who, it is later revealed, is a lamia, the product of an incestuous relationship between devil worshipper Rudy Swan and his sister Stella, a.k.a. "Queenie". Looking for a place to nest, Wendy chooses Palmetto. Her attempts to fill that nest with her heinous offspring lead her to seduce Peter, Charlie, and others. Ironically, it's their interference which ultimately frustrates her plans. Twenty years pass, and suddenly, the survivors again hear the lamia's call. Reluctantly abandoning the lives they have built, they return home to face their tormentor, possibly to embrace her, possibly to destroy her.

Although the book contains echoes of Clegg's previous work such as THE HALLOWEEN MAN and THE CHILDREN'S HOUR (no surprise, since the three books were written during overlapping periods over a twelve year span), and of classics like SALEM'S LOT and GHOST STORY, it ultimately stands on its own, primarily due to Clegg's trademark strengths: rich, multi-layered storytelling, an ability to creatively rework stock genre themes, and a talent for creating characters that rise above the standard horror stereotypes. If the book has a weakness, it's Clegg's devotion to his characters -- his attempts to explore their personalities seemed to go on and on. This is a minor drawback, however. Just when the narrative energy appears o be waning, Clegg kicks the story into overdrive. After that, I was his, greedily consuming page after page on my way to the novel's volatile dénouement.

Some may see this as Clegg's magnum opus, but I disagree. Given the author's tendency to improve and refine his craft from one book to the next, I believe that particular milestone lies in the future. This is an excellent book, but the trend implies that the best is yet to come. For now, readers will have to be content with the formidable body of work Clegg has already produced. -- Hank Wagner

Guest reviewer Hank Wagner, always a prolific reader, is also one of the most prolific reviewers in horror. He has been the chief reviewer for the Overlook Connection Catalog, has reviewed for the DarkEcho newsletter, Cemetery Dance, Horror, Nova Express, Wetbones, and for many other publications.

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.