Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ed Gorman Day: Night Caller - Daniel Ransom

While looking through my shelves for something to read for Ed Gorman Day, I came across this book, one of the horror novels that Ed wrote for Zebra under the name Daniel Ransom. Published in 1987, NIGHT CALLER is one of Ed's earliest novels, his third or fourth, I believe. Best of all, it's one that I somehow overlooked all those years ago, so I'd never read it until now. That meant I was in for a treat.

NIGHT CALLER begins with a time-honored horror novel scenario: car trouble. Even all the way back in the Weird Menace pulps, if a car broke down, it was bound to be near some sinister old house or inn. However, in an almost immediate plot twist, in this case the car taking widow Sally Baines and her 13-year-old daughter Jamie to a new life breaks down near the idyllic Midwestern town of Haversham, which seems to be a throwback to the 1950s. Sally and Jamie have to get a room in the local hotel while they wait for the garage to get a part for their car, and they quickly learn of the place's gruesome history. Some years earlier, the owner's young daughter went insane and killed four people with an ax. And wouldn't you know it, Jamie Baines happens to be a dead ringer for that girl . . .

Complicating things even more are mysterious noises coming from the hotel's attic, a disconnected, old-fashioned telephone that rings on its own and provides a conduit for ghostly voices, a down-on-his-luck tabloid reporter, a conniving prostitute, a derelict with a dangerous secret, the tragedy-haunted owner of the hotel, and various other small town characters.

This may be an early effort by Ed Gorman, but all the hallmarks of his work are already there: the fast pace, the twisty plot, the vividly rendered small town setting, the flawed but likable characters, the melancholy tone punctuated by bits of dark humor, the multiple layers of secrets from the past that cast inexorable shadows over the present. NIGHT CALLER is a top-notch horror/suspense yarn that races along to a bloody and effective climax. I really enjoyed it and give it a high recommendation.

1 comment:

George said...

I'm a fan of the Daniel Ransom books, too! Ed Gorman grew as a writer with each novel he wrote.