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The Totem Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1995

3.8 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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About the Author

My father was killed during World War II, shortly after I was born in 1943. My mother had difficulty raising me and at the same time holding a job, so she put me in an orphanage and later in a series of boarding homes. I grew up unsure of who I was, desperately in need of a father figure. Books and movies were my escape. Eventually I decided to be a writer and sought help from two men who became metaphorical fathers to me: Stirling Silliphant, the head writer for the classic TV series "Route 66" about two young men in a Corvette who travel America in search of themselves, and Philip Klass (whose pen name is William Tenn), a novelist who taught at the Pennsylvania State University where I went to graduate school from 1966 to 1970. The result of their influence is my 1972 novel, First Blood, which introduced Rambo. The search for a father is prominent in that book, as it is in later ones, most notably The Brotherhood of the Rose (1984), a thriller about orphans and spies. During this period, I was a professor of American literature at the University of Iowa. With two professions, I worked seven days a week until exhaustion forced me to make a painful choice and resign from the university in 1986. One year later, my fifteen-year-old son, Matthew, died from bone cancer, and thereafter my fiction tended to depict the search for a son, particularly in Fireflies (1988) and Desperate Measures (1994). To make a new start, my wife and I moved to the mountains and mystical light of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my work changed yet again, exploring the passionate relationships between men and women, highlighting them against a background of action as in the newest, Burnt Sienna. To give his stories a realistic edge, he has been trained in wilderness survival, hostage negotiation, executive protection, antiterrorist driving, assuming identities, electronic surveillance, and weapons. A former professor of American literature at the University of Iowa, Morrell now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446364460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446364461
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,871,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tracy Davis on January 8, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Regular readers of David Morrell expect a crisp writing style, brisk pacing, and above all, relentless action. Morrell delivers once again with The Totem, but this time there are elements of the classic horror story mixed in with the thrills.
The residents of Potters Field, Wyoming, have fallen under the attack of wild animals that kill on sight, mutilating their prey. They hunt in packs, and their shadowed forms can be glimpsed running through the night forests, howling at the moon. Police Chief Nathan Slaughter soon discovers that these feral beasts are not animals at all, but the townspeople themselves. A new virus is loose in Potters Field, not entirely unlike rabies, that gives control back to a previously dormant area of the brain, in effect transforming men and women into the primal creature mankind was hundred of thousands of years ago.
Morrell's writing is as clean and tense as always, yet the book does not live up to its horror billing. Action dominates, and while the author's take on the origins of the werewolf mythology serves to deepen the theme of the book, the horror elements are only a faint undercurrent in what is essentially an action/adventure tale.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have been a great fan of David Morrell for many years. The first two novels I read were The Fifth Profession and Brotherhood of the Rose. Obviously I enjoy his action works. I have never read horror novels before this so this book intrigued me. I found it excellent. Morrell combines his classic high adventure style with incredibly descriptive knowledge of the fear that can be produced by dark and lonely wilderness areas. As a hunter and outdoorsman, I know that tight feeling in your throat when camped in a strange forest and you hear movement and see shadows but just are not sure what made them. I found this novel very exciting. Just do not read it at night while camping.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought this book for the same reason you tend to buy a book at a train station or an airport: to pass time. I actually found myself unable to put it back down. Although the story line is pretty thin, the meat on the bone comes from the density of all characters, largely an effect of good human descriptions by the author. Also, Morrell is capable of diffusing a sense of fear in the reader's mind by cleverly opposing the beauty of pristine nature to this insanity that human beings are typically capable of displaying. Suspense and mystery have the reader "eat" one page after the other to get quicker to the conclusion of the story.

On the negative side, the writing itself is littered with missing rational elements and sometimes contradictions that act pretty much as gaps and holes in the overall framework. Like this: how come that a sizeable group of human beings reverts back to such a wild, animal-like condition whereas still capable of speaking (the guy found wandering on the road) and living in a semi-orderly social organization? I saw this as a real contradiction. Where did the virus -or whatever rage-bringing factor- come from? Why wasn't Slaughter infected when cut across his cheek? Also, the conclusion of the book comes way too fast. The final "battle" runs through a mere couple of pages.

But overall, this is a real, good, fast-paced horror book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a reason why this book is listed as one of the top 100 horror books ever written. The story is gripping, and fast paced. This is the revised edition so be advised if your looking for the original copy. I am curious as to the differences, so I may end up ordering the original!

~worth the read~
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