Stuff I like   Books   Movies   Music Other stuff
The Ubiquitous About Page
The Arkansas Dictionary
Random Thoughts
Some More Stuff
Enak Quotations
MacArthur's Freehold
Balance of Power
String of Worlds
Victims of ACCH

Robert R. McCammon

3 January 2022

Robert R. McCammon was probably my favorite horror author back in the 90s when I read a good bit of the genre. Mostly what I read was vampire stories - there were a lot of good ones, a couple of them were by two of my favorite SF authors. `Fevre Dream` was a genuinely scary book by George R. R. Martin before he got (presumably) rich and famous with the `Game of Thrones` series. Taking place on and around the Mississippi River around the time of the Civil War, Martin described it as `Bram Stoker meets Mark Twain`. I read the first Thrones book and started on the second but abandoned it. I'm sure it's good stuff but not quite my cup of tea. He wrote some really good SF in his earlier years (see this article for suggestions) but the later (80s onward) fantasy doesn't do much for me. I grew up with Tolkein and his contemporaries, and never quite got with the flood that came after. The other SF writer whose vampire stories I enjoyed was Fred Saberhagen, who resurrected (and rehabilitated, reputation-wise) Count Dracula and wrote a series of books following Dracula's adventures in the 20th century, with a couple of excursions into the past - hanging out with Sherlock Holmes and in France during the French Revolution.

Stephen King, probably the most-known of horror writers, was always hit-and-miss for me, and mostly misses. Strangely enough, my favorite of the ones I did read was 'The Long Walk' which was written under the Richard Bachman pseudonym. That one was quite disturbing. I may have seen as many of the film adaptations of his books as I have read.

Sometime in the late 80s I discovered McCammon when I bought 'They Thirst', a vampire story. Luckily he had written most of his horror stories by then so I was able to find a new treat each time I visited the bookstore. For a while. He changed a bit and I wasn't able to get into 'Boy's Life' and wandered away for a while before discovering his latest works a year or two ago. But first, the old stuff.

Actually I have co-favorites among the earlier works. `Usher's Passing` is a really scary one. It deals with the descendants of Edgar Allan Poe's Usher family, who moved to America and became wealthy in the military arms business. The insanity that plagues the family members has some rather disturbing consequences. The other favorite, `Swan Song`, is a very long (over 900 pages if I recall) piece of work similar to King's `The Stand`. Since I didn't get far in Stand, or make it through the TV mini-series, so I'm not sure how similar they are all overall. `Swan Song` follows the adventures of various survivors of a nuclear war that wipes out most life.

The others from that era (late 70s - late 80s) are

Baal (1978) - About a ancient demon resurrected and wreaking havoc.

Bethany's Sin (1980) - Another evil reborn, maybe less ancient. I forgot.

The Night Boat (1980) - A sunken German submarine surfaces with
its undead crew.

They Thirst (1981) - Vampires take over LA. No great loss, I would say,
but they plan to take over the rest of the world.

Mystery Walk (1983) - A young southern boy and the son on an itinerant tent
preacher against something evil. I remember liking it, but not the details.
Like to to take another look sometime.

Stinger (1988) - A wicked extra-terrestrial crash-lands near a small town
in Texas. No, not that small town. Although it was a decent film.

The Wolf's Hour (1989) - About a British spy in WWII Germany. Who just happens
to be a werewolf, which can be handy in this line of work.

Blue World (1990) - A collection of stories. Some good ones, as I recall.

Mine (1990) - Nothing supernatural in this one. A leftover 1960s radical
(think Weather Underground, etc) gone quite insane, abducts a baby and is
pursued by the mother and a former FBI agent left disabled and mutilated
by an encounter with the perpetrator's gang.

After losing interest for a while, quite a while actually, and having recently time to read again, I noticed a new series of books - the `Matthew Corbett` series. These books chronicle the adventures of one Matthew Corbett, a mild-mannered law clerk in Colonial America (as in 1699) whose first first job after being rescued from an orphanage is clerking for his rescuer, a traveling magistrate. There is no supernatural element in these stories, except in the minds of the superstitious colonials. Thus young Matthew finds his first adventure in trying to save a woman (a beautiful young woman, naturally) from being burned as a witch. It gets pretty hairy, and you begin to suspect that the stories are going to be a little more than expected when Matthew, breaking the accused witch out of jail and fleeing into the wilderness, arrive at an Indian village whose inhabitants speak French and consider themselves subjects of the king of France. Pirate loot and an unsolved murder or two round out the story.

Matthew eventually emerges as something of a colonial-era James Bond, with little of the Bond worldliness but a talent for getting himself into Bond-like predicaments with no hope of escape. Maybe a little excess Deus ex machina, or maybe not. I'll give him a pass. One of my two favorite pulp-era authors, Edgar Rice Burroughs (the other being Robert E. Howard) sometimes bordered on abuse of the device, while Howard almost never did. In any case, Matthew is a rather charming character, admirable not only for his intellect and analytical skills, but for being principled to the point that it often gets him in (usually life-threatening) trouble.

These are not horror stories, but the author's talent for horrifying shows, as the series progresses some of the scenes would fit nicely into the horror category. A recurring character is the boss of an international crime syndicate who inflicts grisly (and creative) punishments on treacherous subordinates, and in one tale the customers of a very popular sausage-maker would be better off not knowing how they are made, and among other unpleasantness.

I found a nice website dedicated to the books here. Evidently they're rather popular, the site showing Russian, German and Polish versions. It has a link to the author's site.

And now here are the books
Speaks the Nightbird (2002) -- Wherein young Matthew, bailed out of an orphanage by a traveling magistrate, finds himself in remote town with a woman they want burned as a witch. Things go bad before they arrive and get worse from there. Matthew must save the accused witch from the stake and bring a serial arsonist and a murderer or to to justice.

The Queen of Bedlam (2007)

Mister Slaughter (2010) -- Matthew and an colleague at the agency that employs are engaged to escort a (rather Hannibal Lecter-ish) mass murder to be extradited to England. Obviously the mission goes south quickly, or we wouldn't have a story. Mister Slaughter is perhaps more disturbing than Hannibal.

The Providence Rider (2012) -- After dispensing with the serial killer, Mister Slaughter, Matthew finds himself lured to the lair of Dr. Fell, boss of an international crime empire. He meets an assortment of colorful and mostly murderous characters, and as usual must find a way to survive and escape

The River of Souls (2014) --

Freedom of the Mask (May 2016) --

Cardinal Black (April 2019) --

The King of Shadows (Forthcoming) --

Leviathan (Forthcoming) --

Seven Shades of Evil (forthcoming) -- Short story collection

  Some favorite blogs
Vox Popoli
Free Republic
Citizen Free Press
Liberty Daily
Hide 5
The Daily Mail
Legal Insurrection
Mark Steyn
Front Page Magazine
PJ Media
Lew Rockwell
James Howard Kunstler
Clash Daily
The Burning Platform
The Federalist
Conservative Treehouse
Valiant News
Brownstone Institute
Mises Institute
Slay News