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More than meets the eye
on January 9, 2005
In this, a re-issue of David Morrell's fourth novel (1979), the author, as stated in his introduction "experimented with a variety of formats, all linked by action"(xi) in his early career, from historical novels to action-chase novels, and to this one, in the horror genre. The first version of this story was apparently much different from what Morrell originally intended, edited down to what was thought appealing to readers in the 1970s: "half as long, twice as fast" (xiv). In reading this version, I cannot imagine the action being faster: as with all Morrell books I have previously read, the action comes fast and furious from the beginning, and this novel is no exception. You can see all the Morrell trademarks in this early work: a good protagonist (a sheriff with the great name of `Slaughter'); several antagonists (especially the town's mayor, Parsons); a mystery - in this case, something is mutilating animals and eventually people, with horrifying results for the town of Potter's Field, Wyoming; and a huge climax with Slaughter committing a gruesome, but heroic, act. There's also a theme of moral responsibility: several characters are faced with a choice of doing the right thing or doing nothing, and that adds another dimension to the action. Morrell also uses parallel imagery between the angry townspeople and the `hippies' who are blamed for the evils visited upon the town. Even the name of the town lends itself to the action, since a `potter's field' was where the poor and nameless were buried; there's some symbolism there! The hippy aspect of the story dates it a little bit - a modern audience born in the 1980s probably wouldn't understand the social divisions of 1970, but that historical reference is explained enough to give a younger reader the general picture.