Wednesday, 23 October 2019

The Spirit

eBook cover
Author: Thomas Page
First Published: 1977
File size/Pages: 2864kb / 197pp
Ebook Publisher: Valancourt Books
Ebook Date: August 2019

There is a point while I was reading The Spirit by Thomas Page that I had flashbacks to the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I won't spoil anything, but if you read the novel, or have already read the novel, it might happen to you too.

I read the re-print version by Valancourt Books, which has come about via the enormous success of their coffee table reference book Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix with contributions from Will Errickson. For anyone wishing to further explore the horror realm I strongly recommend a visit to Will's blog, Too Much Horror Fiction - there is a  link on this page in the "Blogs I Follow" section in the sidebar. I'm always visiting it for inspiration, checking out cover-scans and reviews.

The Spirit was authored by Thomas Page, born in Washington, DC in 1942, this was his second novel and followed the science fiction novel The Hephaestus Plague - a story about the discovery of a fire-making beetle with an amazing scientific secret that was made into the film Bug by William Castle. Page wrote The Spirit, but was unhappy with the end product and the introduction to this edition of the novel has a great introduction by Grady Hendrix covering the history of the the book and how its author came about finally finishing it.

There was a period in the late seventies when anything about bigfoot, abominable snowmen, yeti, or Sasquatch, were all the rage. We even got a sub-genre of books about Sasquatch having sex with humans, or kidnapping women in order to have their wicked ways with them to perpetuate their race. Page's book, although aimed squarely at that audience is not entirely steeped in that realm, but is something better in my opinion. Page takes the Bigfoot myth and wraps around it a tale of two men trying to find themselves (as well as the 'creature') albeit that only one of them really understands that from the start of the book.

The story begins by introducing us to the American Indian, John Moon, who is preparing for his spirit quest. He has left it late in life, and feels a great sense of responsibility to honour his father and his people by embarking upon this right of way to discover his 'spirit name'. He is both emotionally and mentally scarred from his experiences in Vietnam, and these will continue to haunt him during the story.

Hamlyn 1981
After this we cut to a group of hunters and game wardens in the Canadian wilderness, they are a mixed bunch and include the savvy, rich, thrill seeking hunter Raymond Jason. Whilst tracking some game by jeep and helicopter they have a fateful and catastrophic encounter with what Jason thinks is the Bigfoot. He realises he has found his new aim in life - hunting and capturing one.

What follows is a neat book that traces both men's journey's to locate the creature, whether that be a Bigfoot or something else, and either have a semi-religious experience, or face the ultimate challenge and finally capture a creature the whole world is talking about. The journey takes us through Canada and into North America, with both men occasionally crossing paths. The first half of the book centres on the travels across country - the second sees all the players converging on a ski-resort where you just know, in the good old horror movie fashion, that 'things' are gonna happen to the holiday makers and the staff of the hotel that runs the ski-slopes.

The Spirit is peppered with nice set-pieces, good secondary characters that will obviously not last till the end of the story, and a really cinematic ending that makes me quite surprised that no-one tried to make this into a 'Jaws'-like summer blockbuster in the eighties. A recommended read.

Being a recent re-print the eBook I was expecting The Sprit to be expensive in relative terms to the other types of books I review here. It actually only cost £3.99, which I think is pretty good value all told. There were no typos or miss-formatting errors that I can recall.

Before reading this, I decided to watch the classic Hammer Film, The Abominable Snowman, starring Peter Cushing and Forrest Tucker from 1967 (Written by Nigel Kneale, one of my favourite script writers). I love that film, and there are some similarities with how the monster is portrayed in it's finale to that in Page's book. I wonder if he viewed the film at some point? I certainly don't think he based the look on the film's 'Snowman' (left)!