I have been reading Masterton for the better part of 30 years, and saw him at a book signing in Bradford in the 1970s. He seemed to dip below the radar for a while, then re-surfaced relatively recently.
Masterton is not the most prolific of writers in the horror genre, but when his creative juices are in full flow he can rival the excellent James Herbert, and is a serious candidate to break the current American male Horror duopoly of Koontz and King who seem to have cornered the market a bit.
The tome in question is centered in San Francisco, where a hard-bitten and cynical SFPD detective (one Larry Foggia) is confronted by murderous forces he is at a loss to understand. Such are the horrific nature of the slayings the killer perpetrates, the police have seen fit to accord him - or, it - the moniker Satan.
The ostensible rationale for these series of killings is that of an earth-bound agency, one that used occult ritualism as a kind of medium to justify the horrific nature of the acts. The Police, including Foggia, are initially inclined to accept that modus operandi if only for public (that is, media) consumption and to avoid mass panic.
However, the immutably supernatural origins of the murders leads Foggia inevitably to the conclusion that, despite 'management's' hard-bitten reality, there is something altogether other-wordly about these events.
Masterton, in putting this thing together, demonstrates an ability to transport the reader out of the normal orbit of cosy bedtime reading and into the realms of the fantastic and the truly macabre. He doesn't do blood and guts as brutally effectively as Hutson, but my word he knows how to scare people in far more subtle ways. incidentally, you could do much worse than looking out for some of his other works. Avoid the sex stuff, though ... yuk!
Black Angel by Graham Masterton
Copy: Paperback 9780749309633 Mandarin
Seller: Greener Books, London, LDN, United Kingdom
Having exhausted Stephen King?s works and having made a substantial inroad into the novels of Dean Koontz, I was on the look out for a new horror author to get my teeth into. So, my friend Iain was kind enough to lend me a Graham Masterson and I had encountered positive reviews of the author before on Dooyoo and so had high expectations as I turned the first page and began to read. THE STORY San Francisco is being subjected to a reign of terror. A series of ritualistic mass murders are being committed and Larry Foggia is assigned to the case to track down the killer who has become known as the Fog City Satan. He decides that an open mind is required and starts to follow an investigation into supernatural possibilities. A similar series of murders occurred many years before and rumour has it that these were committed by a group known as the Black Brotherhood in order to raise from eternal sleep an evil Fallen Angel, Beli Ya?al, exiled from Heaven by God. The current murders seem to follow the same pattern. Are the Black Brotherhood acting again? Will Beli Ya?al be resurrected? Is there anything Foggia can do to prevent this and catch the murderer? THE OPENING This book has one of the best starts I have ever come across and grips your attention from the very beginning. The first sentence is ?Joe Berry Fastidiously wiped up the last circles of spaghetti sauce with a torn-off piece of sourdough and then pushed his plate away, and that was the end of the last meal he would ever eat?. We immediately know that this character is about to die. We are then introduced to his wife, Nina, who is making ?a pie should would never bake? and to his children, Caroline and Joe, whose stuffed rabbit, which would next be called ?People?s Exhibit H?. It is clear that the entire family is about to suffer a horrendous fate. On top of the knowledge that the family is to die we are given a countdown to their fate. ?S
ix-and-a-half minutes left? states Masterton, ?not even enough time for Joe to finish the afternoon paper?. This tension heightening technique brings our curiosity and fear to fever pitch before the murders begin. Masterton easily raises our sympathies by skilfully introducing us to the family in such a way that we instantly like them. The husband and wife still love each other and their children. Their kids sleep peacefully with favoured toys and seem angelic in their sleep. They are a normal family and we begin to dread the fate that awaits them. What follows is one of the most horrific accounts of torture and death I have ever read. I won?t go into details for fear of disturbing our younger readers (and our more mature readers of a nervous disposition). For fans of the horror genre the scene is extremely imaginative, horrifying and tantalising; it promises a novel containing tension, fear and apprehension. Within a few pages Masterton has grabbed our attention and made us feel revulsion, sadness, anger and fascination. A superb attention grabbing start to the book. THE SUPERNATURAL This book relies heavily on a belief in the supernatural. In order to help the reader adjust to this, Masterton makes our hero, Foggia, a doubter. He scoffs at the existence of the paranormal but after he accompanies his mother to a séance he sees evidence that even he cannot ignore. Foggia sees an apparition of a drowned girl, an ectoplasmic formation and the desiccation of his mother?s living body before his very eyes. He, a non-believer, is faced with concrete evidence of the ?other side? and he has no choice but to change his mind and admit the existence of the supernatural. The reader also must follow suit. Once the reader has accepted the fearful possibilities and dangers of the paranormal the story becomes as real as a true-life documentary and the events as terrifying. By the end of the novel we easily a
ccept a parrot with a growth shaped like Foggia?s face and the appearance of a moving face on Foggia?s hand! ARRESTING AN ANGEL Foggia?s task is to find out who the murderer is but, more urgently, to find the location of Beli Ya?al and ensure that he does not return to life, as this would result in mass killings and the release of the greatest evil known to man. We are given graphic demonstrations of the Fallen Angel?s powers and they are spine-chilling, gut-wrenching and knicker-wetting. His powers are so great that surely no mere mortal could ever hope to fight against him. However, this is exactly what Foggia must do. The task of thinking of a way in which a human could overcome an Angel with supernatural powers is a tricky one and Masterton does his best. However, it still seems a little incredulous that one San Francisco Police Detective could hold back the forces of evil. Nevertheless this slight glitch is not sufficient to spoil the book, so fascinating is the rest of the novel. CAST IRON STOMACH The book is an excellent read. There is sufficient blood and guts to please the horror fanatic and plenty of tension and fear to titillate the less horror hardened reader. I would certainly not recommend this book to anyone who is squeamish as there are graphic descriptions of torture, murder and other such desecrations. However, for ghoulish readers, like me, these are added bonuses! This is a very well written book that makes you believe the unbelievable. Our sympathies are raised for the victims and we are made to fear the perpetrator. It is extremely hard to put the book down until we have turned the final page when Masterton triumphs by adding one final twist in the tale. Read the book to find out what?? OTHER INFO Publisher: Mandarin Paperbacks, Reed Books Ltd, Fulham Road, London Price: £5.99 ISBN: 9-780749-309633
I discovered Graham Masterton quite by chance. A colleague who left his job somewhat unexpectedly left one of his novels in his desk, a thoroughly enjoyable read called "The Sleepless". They were, I wasn't, but I was hooked. I am a huge horror fan, this was a new author, so let's have some more! There was a small independent bookshop not too far from where I was living at the time. I used to visit frequently and chat to the owner, who is also a horror fan. I loved that place, and I miss it still. Where else can it take you half an hour to make a purchase, even after you've chosen the book and got to the counter? One day, amongst a couple of other things, I picked "Black Angel" from the shelf. "I've just started reading this," she said "the first chapter's really nasty." Well, that was like a red rag to a bull with me, and I nearly ran home to get started. So, are you sitting comfortably? Yes? Good! It's probably just as well, because if you were the one reading this novel, you wouldn't be for long! This is most definitely not bedtime reading. I wouldn't recommend reading it after a heavy meal, either. It's nasty, and I love it, but it is only for those with a strong stomach! The novel opens on the kind of family scene that Americans seem to like calling "typically American". The children in bed, ex-cop Joe Berry and his wife Nina are doing typically homely things. He's finishing dinner, she?s making a pie. (Apple? Of course!) But there's a little countdown happening between the lines. What's that all about? By this time, I've already taken a liking to Joe, as he has indicated a shared belief in one of my own philosophies: "Decaff isn't coffee. Same as lite beer isn't beer." You tell 'em, Joe! By the end of the first chapter, however, the countdown has reached zero. And what was it c
ounting down to? A brutal attack on the Berry family. When I say brutal, I mean BRUTAL! A man breaks into their apartment, nails Joe and Nina to the floor, making each hammer the first nail into their spouse's hand, on their hands and knees (nails through their knees, oh yes!), rapes Nina and nails their two children to the wall before setting them alight, whilst their parents are forced to watch. Well, they can't really go anyplace else. This is our first introduction to the man known to San Francisco Police as the Fog City Satan. Detective Larry Foggia is assigned to the case, to take over from a colleague. Now that the Fog City Satan has started killing their own, the police and the city mayor suddenly have a new urgency, and want the killer caught NOW. Larry is chosen largely due to his being high profile, and good with the media. Larry immediately suspects that he has been handed the case in an effort to end his career, and that there are reasons behind the case being transferred that he does not know about. There are, but not the ones he suspects. As the files are passed over, and Larry starts reviewing the case, we learn more about the Fog City Satan. The Berry's are the sixth family he has murdered. We discover that he enjoys the use of fire, and nails, and that he has a habit of nailing the family pets to things. (Even some goldfish, which provides a weird mental picture) He discovers that the Fog City Satan has a certain was of doing things, which involves breaking into homes with an unnecessary show of force, and wears a strange looking mask which, apparently, looks like he's wearing a beetle on his head. There have also been calls to a San Francisco radio station, accepting responsibility and warning about a visitor from the "other side" who is coming to feed! After certain inexplicable events, Larry begins to suspect that the mention of the "other side" may indicate a superna
tural force behind the murders. Much to the disgust of his superiors and colleagues, he begins investigating along these lines. Despite their reservations, further incidents and hearing stories that sounds familiar to what he has seen with his own eyes confirm his suspicions. As he continues, more and more inexplicable and gruesome things happen, convincing Larry he?s on the right track, but confusing him and scaring him more and more. And it?s not just Larry Foggia that?s likely to be scared by what described either. Masterton has this wonderful way of both scaring and grossing out the reader. The action keeps coming, with hardly time to draw breath between one shocking event and the next, before building into a huge finish. But it?s the death scenes that make this as good (or bad, depending on your viewpoint!) as it is. Every time you get to another death, it is described in such detail, almost lovingly, that you get the impression that Masterton is really enjoying his death scenes. Which, in all honesty, makes two of us. This is the kind of thing you read horror novels to see, and I?ve not seen a death described in as much detail anywhere, particularly the one where a character is hit by a truck. The images of that one have stayed in my memory for a long time, and not in the best kind of way. Masterton does the disgustingly messy death better than anyone I can think of! This is quite possibly one of the books I've most enjoyed, in my own warped little way! The deaths, whilst largely unrealistic, are vividly described down to the last drop of blood and Wilbert Fraser's demise is particularly painful from a male point of view! In every death Masterton puts King and Koontz to shame - they never killed anybody this well! This is a novel you really want to see on screen, just to see how they handle the deaths but, at the same time you don't, as you know they will ruin the novel, as films often do! There
are also, despite all this, some nice humorous touches throughout the novel. Larry's leaving of a message for his informant, and the confusion of the person trying to accept that the message really should read "Tell Dogmeat he's dogmeat" is good fun, as is Larry's snide remarks and running battle with his mother's parrot. There are other mildly amusing moments, but although they do lighten the mood slightly, they can?t take your mind off the blood and gore for long. If you have a weak stomach, or a nervous disposition, or have trouble sleeping at the best of times, stay well away from this book. But if you?re the kind of twisted person who enjoys a good horror novel and loves a big dollop of blood and gore, a bit like me, in fact, you've got to jump aboard! Unfortunately, the book is out of print at present, which makes it quite difficult to find in the usual retailers. There is a copy on eBay at present, and there are a few copies available through Amazon?s marketplace. I?ve seen one over at Bookcrossing.com, and there are a couple at abebooks.com, but the prices are so inflated I wouldn?t consider them looking at. It?s a great novel, for sure, but not £30.00 worth! The search may be hard, but it will ultimately be worthwhile, I can assure you. Just as a point of interest, my copy of this novel has the author's name printed as "Graham Masterson" on the cover, although the flyleaf has it spelt correctly. I don't know how many copies were printed and released like this, but this could turn out to be a collectible later on and, indeed, a couple of the sellers at the Amazon Marketplace are selling theirs as such with this spelling. Still, even if it isn't, I just read one hell of a good book!
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Horror novel about the resurrection of a fallen angel. Also known as 'Master of Lies'.