One Safe Place

One Safe Place

by Ramsey Campbell
     
 

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For the Travises, Americans who have just moved to England, the downward spiral begins with a minor fender bender. Don Travis is shocked when Phil Fancy, the driver of the other car, assaults him. Worse, after Phil is sentenced to prison, Don, his wife, Suzanne, and their adolescent son, Marshall, are targeted for revenge by the rest of the Fancy family. The Fancys… See more details below

Overview

For the Travises, Americans who have just moved to England, the downward spiral begins with a minor fender bender. Don Travis is shocked when Phil Fancy, the driver of the other car, assaults him. Worse, after Phil is sentenced to prison, Don, his wife, Suzanne, and their adolescent son, Marshall, are targeted for revenge by the rest of the Fancy family. The Fancys are more than a family - they're a gang, and well practiced at thievery, persecution, assault and battery, and other nasty pursuits. They plague the Travises with harassing phone calls, vandalism at their home, and petty theft at Don's bookshop - but nothing the police can trace to the Fancys. Pushed to the limit, Don does what would have been unthinkable just a few weeks earlier: he buys a gun. The weapon does him no good when he interrupts the Fancys in an attempt to burn down the bookstore; angered at the mere sight of the gun, the would-be arsonists beat Don to death. Suzanne and Marshall Travis are stunned, feeling as if the world has shifted beneath their feet. But their ordeal is not over. The younger generation of Fancys has not yet been satisfied. And the focus of their hatred is Suzanne's son, Marshall.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Taking a holiday from his usual supernatural horrors, Campbell (The Long Lost) delivers his grimmest novel yet, a thriller seething with outrage at a judicial system that makes victims out to be villains. The victims here are the Travises, American expatriates to England who run afoul of criminal lowlife Phil Fancy. After Phil is apprehended for forcing his way into the Travis home, events escalate tragically. Phil slips through legal loopholes with a light sentence. But Susanne Travis, a university instructor, is pilloried in the press for owning videos that violate Britain's tough censorship laws, and her husband falls prey to Phil's vengeful family. Equal horrors befall 12-year-old Marshall Travis, whom Phil's punk son, Darren, kidnaps and torments to win the regard of his relatives. Campbell is an expert at building terror subtly and indirectly. He brings an almost unbearable intensity to Marshall's ordeal by keeping the boy drugged, deprived of his eyeglasses and navely oblivious to the danger of the games Darren plays with him, including one excruciatingly suspenseful round of Russian roulette. Credible renderings of the inner lives of both boys, who seem like grotesque parodies of one another, and of the squalor of the Fancy household, give the story a suffocating sense of desperation. Ultimately, Campbell persuades the reader that the loss of innocence that Darren embodies and that he inflicts upon Marshall is more horrifying that any supernatural menace. (Aug.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Don and Susanne Travis and son Marshall leave Florida for England, where Susanne has been invited to teach her college course on violence in film. Don opens a book shop, and Marshall is relieved to escape bullies in Florida. Campbell (The Long Lost, LJ 11/15/94) layers this suspense novel with cultural ironies, especially on violence as seen through British eyes. Don has a traffic run-in with a member of the criminal Fancy clan who, vowing vengeance, breaks into the Travis home to frighten the Americans. Then a British vice squad raids the Travis home to seize their obscene American films, including the Indiana Jones flicks. The "one safe place" of the title is the home that has now been invaded twice. Fancy is jailed and, in vengeance, two of his brothers beat Don to death, indignant when he pulls an illegal, unloaded gun on them. The Fancys are still seething when Marshall turns up missing. Campbell indulges in several comic jibes, some almost overwhelmed by the taut suspense. Strongly recommended for suspense lovers, and not a bad read for cultural anthropologists.Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals, Framingham, Mass.
Kirkus Reviews
Perhaps Campbell's most inspired suspense novel yet, rivaling Midnight Sun (1990), though purged of horror and the supernatural.

Violence is on the rise in Manchester, especially among the young, as the warm, well-spoken Travis family finds when it moves to England from Florida. Even back home, 12-year-old Marshall was bullied and beaten, a nightmare that follows him to Manchester, where his mother, Suzanne, teaches a university course in violence and the cinema. Meantime, Marshall's bookseller dad, Don, is attacked in his car and threatened with a gun by the psychotic Phil Fancy, who escapes. When local newspapers print an unflattering drawing of him, Phil spitefully attacks young Marshall, sprains his ankle when turning on Don and, unable to flee, is arrested. He's given a jail sentence, which is bad news for the Travises, since the Fancy clan, all mad and bad, vow revenge. Then constables raid the Travis home and confiscate their entire US movie collection, from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to Singin' in the Rain: Films in Britain must be nipped of violence and bear the censors' seal. When two Fancys stomp Don to death, they receive sentences of five years for manslaughter rather than longer sentences for murder: Don had a gun, illegal in Britain. Then Phil's vengeful son Darren abducts Marshall and keeps him prisoner in the Fancy house, planning his death as Suzanne and the police begin searching for the lost boy. What raises the story above rather routine suspense is the poisonously befogged, rapacious Fancy family, its members infected with a smiling brainrot that the reader must experience to believe. To live page after page in the Fancy homestead is to know that you don't have to leave England to find the heart of darkness.

A triumph of deadpan (but riotously twisted) dialogue and bizarre characters in a novel that would be hailed as savage satire were it not gussied up as suspense. Deserves daring celluloid.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812545555
Publisher:
Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
08/01/1997
Pages:
401
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 6.81(h) x 1.07(d)

What People are saying about this

Dean Koontz
Ramsey Campbell is highly regarded for his sensitive use of the language and his ability to create psychologically complex characters.

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