Published as a signed limited edition by Pendragon Press, here we have a very interesting piece of work. Mark West pens a short tale that's steeped in 70's and 80's chase films, yet retains a character all of its own.
One fateful night, David is at a party he'd much prefer to be absent from. Through a mutual friend, he offers Natalie a lift home. Elsewhere, a gang of drugged up 'hoodies' are cruising about in a souped up sports car. Their initial activities are obnoxious but relatively harmless, but it's clear that things are about to escalate. These two parties are on a violent collision course and it's anyone's guess who will survive the night...
Mark West takes what is a pretty simple premise – that of the innocents (David and Nat) being hunted and terrorised by unknown and violent assailants, through the dead of night where there seems to be nowhere to go and no one to help. West cleverly wastes little time in getting to the meat of the action and the bulk of the book details David and Nat's encounters with the gang and their subsequent attempts to escape. As such, there is very little room for prolonged character development and it's a testament to West's talents that he still manages to imbue both David and Nat with three dimensional and sympathetic traits. We really feel for these two people and their plight.
The initial build up is tense, as the two protagonists are first 'buzzed' by the antagonist's car and then followed. Nat is the first to be pursued and it's a nail biting few scenes, as the 'hoodies' first chase her, then catch up with her, while at the same time David is shown to be slowly making his way back to her location. I was genuinely gripped by the writing and wanted to jump into the story and beat the shit out of the bad guys (always a good sign, believe me).
Following this, we get to the main event which is David's attempts to escape in his bog standard car with Nat as his passenger. They are followed, rammed and harassed at every turn. David is unfamiliar with the town they are in and is reliant on Nat's panicked directions. They journey to the local police station. It's closed. They try to get to the next town. They're followed and nearly run off the road. There is no one on the streets to help them and those they do encounter want nothing to do with the situation. The isolation emanating from the pages is palpable.
It's very reminiscent of those wonderful films like (obviously) Christine (in particular, there's a scene about halfway through where the pursuing vehicle makes its slow way around the rear of a petrol station which has all the ominous atmosphere of Christine), The Car, Duel, The Hitcher and other chase movies, but it also has the wider atmosphere of films such as Escape From New York or Mad Max. There's a subtle sense of post apocalypse here and anyone who has driven up and down a motorway in the dead of night will know exactly what I mean. You feel as if you're the last person on earth and while that feeling is sometimes comforting, imagine being pursued by someone intent on your destruction...
The prose is tight and lean and perfectly reflects the action. There's no room for excess description or waffle. It puts me in mind of the Stephen King adage – 'omit needless words'. This is bare bone writing but doesn't sacrifice the story or the scenes. It's near perfect. My only niggles were – the ending. It felt far too abrupt for me. Just when I thought it was going to go out with bigger bang it just seemed to stop. But perhaps that was inevitable considering the breakneck pace and tension of the preceding story. I also was frustrated at David's actions. Now, this is just a very personal thing and I appreciate that it was how his character would act, but I just kept wishing for him to find his inner savage because that's what my reaction would be. However this is no way a criticism, as I understand that my reaction to a situation like this might be very different based upon my own experiences. Rather, I credit the writing for making me feel this way.
All in all, a hugely entertaining piece of work. I recommend reading it all in one sitting – take yourself off to a quiet corner for an hour or so, let the tension build and enjoy...
Paul M. Feeney
Paul M. Feeney has been watching horror films since he was a young, impressionable boy and before the lunatic hysteria reached his parent's censorship. This transferred to the written word when he was sixteen and read his first Stephen King book. He hasn't looked back since (except to check over his shoulder that there aren't any monsters following...).
The past few years have seen him turn his hand to the writing of his own fiction, in the arena of horror and the supernatural. He expects to be published soon, wit fame and riches following soon after...
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