Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2020 June 03 • Wednesday

Thanks are due yet again to Valancourt Books for making available a great horror novel from the 1970s in an excellent and affordable paperback edition.

The latest that we've read from them is Thomas Cullinan's The Bedeviled.

Thanks also to Centipede Press, possibkly our favorite small press. If it weren't for their deluxe hardcover edition of this novel, we might not have known about it.

But we can't always pay $75 for a book, especially one we haven't read and don't know if we'll like.

Anyway, The Bedeviled was great. It really draws you in and keeps you there.

With the exception of one chapter, the book is presented as the journal of the main character, Maggie Caine, and told in her first-person voice as she sets down the strange and horrifying experiences she's been having ever since she, her husband and their two children, have relocated from Scarsdale, NY, to an old farmhouse in Ohio that has been in her husband's family for generations.

You might be thinking haunted house but it's closer to Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist.

Way back when, the man who built this house, Maggie's husband's great-great-grandfather, was a Civil War hero on the Union side of the conflict. In fact, he built the house as a replica of the Confederate prison where he was held captive for a while.

Why would he do such a thing, you might wonder. You''ll find out.

Without giving away too much, it probably can't ruin the book for you to know up front that this ancestor messed around with Satanism. And, you know, he might still have some presence and some power.

Especially with the help of some evil witchy type neighbors.

While nothing gruesome or explicit ever happens in this—if books had movie ratings it would probably be fine as a PG-13— Cullinan is good at telling the story, keeping the pace steady and creating so much dread and creepiness and, well, horror, that it was more unsettling to read than most other books I can remember.

The device of the journal allows several chapters to end in suspenseful chapters that make it really hard not to continue. "It was the last time I heard him play his flute until the night he died", for instance, or "On the way home—I learned much later—he tried to sexually molest his ten-year-old sister".

The first line is "I spend much of my time lately watching Franny, and wondering what she's thinking about".