The Halloween Man is one of the best horror novels that I’ve read in years. It’s got a great story and it doesn’t feel like a repeat of the same old story, like a lot of other horror novels you’ll find on a local bookstore shelf. I had never read anything by Clegg before reading this novel, but now I’m going to go out and get the rest of his books. If you’ve never heard of Clegg either, or are a fan of horror fiction, get this book right now.
In The Halloween Man one of the characters explains she doesn't tell scary stories: "All my stories are the truth and about human love. Human love comes in all forms." And, although she does not say so, you soon realize that love involves sacrifice and fear. The Halloween Man is about overwhelming love and devastating terror, human strength and supernatural power, and the eternal cycle of death and re-birth. Like other members of a new generation of horror writers, Clegg abandons the traditional trope of good vs. evil (what David Hartwell calls the moral allegorical stream of horror) instead exploring a grey zone of redemption and That Which Should Not Be. By building on cultural myths and the psychology of a quest for truth and identity, the author mainstreams his story in a way that will still appeal to readers who seek the emotional effect the moral allegorical brings. Why is this important? Because commercial horror, the realm of the bestseller, has been defined for a generation by the good vs. evil tradition -- and Clegg may prove to be a writer who can re-define "what the commercial audience wants" for the next generation.
Centering around a compelling protagonist, Stony Crawford, The Halloween Man has the attributes of a bestseller partially because it can be blurbed with gothic hyperbole like "only Stony Crawford holds the key to the power of the chilling mystery of Stonehaven, and to the power of the unspeakable creature trapped within a summer mansion" and "ancient secrets and terrifying tales of unnamable horror" -- yadayadayada. But -- packed with vivid imagery; a broadly scoped, but fast-paced plot; powerful, evocative writing; superb characterization; and facile intelligence -- The Halloween Man is more than its blurbage could ever convey.
The story itself is impossible to boil down to a paragraph -- and maybe that's something else it offers modern readers used to the necessarily simplistic plots of 90 minutes of film. The Halloween Man might make a good mini-series or movie -- but one that enevitibly loses much in translation. It would earn the book-selling sobriquet -- "Yeah, cool, but read the book, it's better!"
With an already solid body of work (Goat Dance, Breeder, Neverland, Dark Of The Eye, The Children's Hour,the "Andrew Harper"-penned Bad Karma) Douglas Clegg has given horror lovers the best Halloween gift possible -- an entertaining spinetingler written with unique style and in no one's tradition -- but respectful of what came before. Little Leisure Books and its perspicacious editor Don D'Auria may already have what bigtime publishers have so fruitlessly been searching for -- the Next Big Name in Horror.