In The Grin of the Dark, Ramsey Campbell offers a classic horror scenario; the writer who enters territory he really shouldn’t. Down on his luck protagonist, Simon Lester, lands a golden opportunity to write a series of academic texts on his chosen specialist subject of film and begins with a biography of a little known music hall figure, long forgotten by most, but clearly not by all.
Yet while the premise of the novel is wonderful, it’s a slow starter.
Early supernatural incidents, while convincing, are almost too easily rationalised and subsequently dismissed by our hero and the novel gets bogged down with unnecessary details. We know Lester has benefited from a hefty advance, but don’t need to know exactly what he owed on his credit cards (not much as it happens) and how much he intends to save for a rainy day. Beyond nerdy Simon Lester, whose first person narration is a little laboured, characterisation is poor.
And so, sadly, the reader, like the protagonist, is left rather disengaged.
The Grin of the Dark is published 1 May 2008. Order your copy from Amazon.co.uk.