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The Tower
Simon Clark
Leisure / Dorchester paperback $6.95

review by Andrew Darlington

Somewhere out beyond an unnamed river crossing one-hour from York, the indie five-piece formerly known as Cuspidor are getting it together in the country. In a house, a very big house, in the country... This is Simon Clark back on his familiar bloodstained Yorkshire terrain following his mind-excursions into the Americana of Stranger and In This Skin. And it's a group-jeopardy movie with his regular crew of clean likeable early twenty-something wastrels. You can almost cast it yourself. The setting is a darkly-shining 'Outlook' haunted by monstrous dreams and past terrors with its own ballroom, and mad groundkeeper Cantley (Jack Nicholson?) hiding out in the outbuildings skewering rats to kill the pain in his own head.

It's also a 'House On The Borderland' where a 'Masque Of The Red Death' plague-siege had once been enacted, its megalithic simplicity resembling 'a dirty tomb'. For Simon reveals Yorkshire to be the ancient land that it is. "Every church is built on the site of a pagan temple. Some even recycled stone carvings from the temples into the fabric of Christian churches." And from its opening pages - rescuing Jak the vagabond dog from becoming instant roadkill, the narrative flows as smoothly as oozing blood. The band is being re-moulded by ambitiously manipulative Fabian, a petulant preening lead singer and songwriter - you know the type. With him are Marko, who believes he's the reincarnation of the 'patron saint of rock drummers', Keith Moon. Alongside guitarists Sterling Pound, and incoming Adam Ambrose with his video-friendly teeth and hair - and his 1966 Fender Strat, and 22-year-old John Fisher with his $4000 red Rickenbacker bass, the main narrative-voice, troubled by the cancer-death of his father a year earlier. Plus: hangers-on Belle, Josanne, and Czech-born Kym (the first to die).

In turn, these wannabe hit-makers begin experiencing horrific premonitions - their own 'death-dreams'... that soon begin to become fact, drawn by the "dark irresistible gravity" of evil. Each incident paced to the phantom chimes of the house's 'blind clock'. Simon inhabits his characters fluently, tracing their doubts into forebodings, their fears into terrors. A sureness of touch that never falters, even when he's doing his detailed construction of complex events, like the 'medieval core' of the tower, the house-within-the-house idea here, as meticulously described as the sequence trapped in the submerged Rolls Royce at the bottom of the New Venice Lake of flooded London in his earlier King Blood.

Although, with The Tower Simon Clark is not out to revolutionise the genre, shake its foundations or redefine its limits - as he seemed about to do with that amazing King Blood or The Fall, instead he's just doing what he does best, delivering an effortlessly readable dose of eerie thrills. But even when he's doing that he's a severed-head and mutilated-shoulders way above the opposition.
The Tower by Simon Clark

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