Banquet For The Damned
By Adam L G Nevill
Publisher: Virgin books
First novels are always a bit of a gamble but when you are browsing and find a book which has elements of the occult, witchcraft, supernatural, ghosts, rock stars and is set in the quaint Scottish town of St Andrews it becomes a lot easier to take that gamble. In fact, it could be argued that it is our duty as horror/SF/fantasy fans to support these authors by taking that gamble, only then can we reclaim the genre from the overpowering decay of the (writing by numbers) dark fantasy/vampire/romantic novels which dominate the increasingly smaller shelves of the horror section and replace it with good old fashioned ghost stories. So buy the book out of principle and feel good about yourself, then read the book and you will be justifiable proud that you were there at the start supporting a major new talent and getting to read a bloody good book into the bargain.
While the plot is fairly standard fare the writing is above average. Two musicians are invited by an occult guru to take part in research in St Andrews, needless to say when they get there they are confronted with a slightly different reality and are immediately embroiled in a web of occult happenings. The book really impacts with its sense of place as we see behind the facade of the grand old buildings of the university town to the darker nooks and crannies beyond. St Andrews is a town I know well and this book certainly succeeds in imbuing the place with the right atmosphere, on the face of it clean cut and good living but underneath a grimy underworld with a dark heart.
The author knows his history of the supernatural and many of the aspects of the horror are based on apocryphal tales or real life characters. The horror itself is implied through glimpses, thoughts and sounds. This is less the blood and gore of Shaun Hutson and more the supernatural of Phil Rickman. Indeed early Rickman (before bloody Merrily!) or later Herbert would appear to be the major comparison points, there is the same sense of place, flawed characters and underlying occult influences all tied together in a rollicking good plot.
So any flaws, well minor ones really, but to my mind some of the dialogue writing was poor and the plot had a couple of points where the characters actions seemed improbable but nothing that seriously impaired my enjoyment of a good first novel and a worthy addition to the library of great ghost stories. Ghosts, hags and rock’n’roll what’s not to like.
Rating 4 out of 5