Books, Books, and More Books!

It’s a little heartbreaking that almost an entire generation has grown up without knowing Robert McCammon’s work.  Perhaps it is a fluke that I have even heard
of the man myself.  Certainly in central Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and the numerous places I’ve lived, his name was a mere shadow in comparison to King, Koontz, and Barker.  Why this is also just luck of the draw in publishing, I suppose.

From 1978 until 1992, Mister McCammon published twelve novels, a collection of short stories, and edited another anthology of stories.  All were successful to one degree or another.  Two of his short stories were even picked up for adaptation for The New Twilight Zone and The Dark Room.  Even Frank Darabont has
given interest for adapting one of his novels (more on that later).

So, why am I writing this?  Is it biography?  No. All I know about the man is that he is my favorite writer and he went to the University of Alabama (I know, I know. No one’s perfect.  It would be too much to ask for him to have gone to Auburn, but that wasn’t my decision).  I also know that for a decade he did not
publish.  There’s the official story, and then there’s what I’ve heard only in whispers. My decision to write this is simply to show my appreciation of a
wonderful writer.  I’m going to brutally honest.  I have no reason not to be.

1978 Baal

“A woman is ravished…

and to her a child is born…

unleashing an unimaginable evil upon the world!

And they call him BAAL in the orphanage, where he leads the children on a rampage of violence…in California, where he appears as the head of a deadly
Manson-like cult…in Kuwait, where crazed millions heed his call to murder and orgy.

They call him BAAL in the Arctic’s hellish wasteland, where he is tracked by the only three men with a will to stop him: Zark, the shaman; Virga, the aging
professor of theology; and Michael, the powerful, mysterious stranger.”

Not only was this his first novel published, it was his first completed.  And he has said that he was forced to learn to write in public. In the Pocket Books edition, Mister McCammon says this is his angry young man novel.  When compared to the original twelve novels, it’s not hard to see why.  Every writer is told to write what they know, so he set out to write what he did not by setting it far off lands.  In many ways, this novel is foreshadowing what would be to come with the greatness of Swan Song, but I still found it a struggle to get through.

If this had been my first, there is a large probability it would have been my last McCammon.

1980 Bethany’s Sin

“Even God stays away from the village of BETHANY’S SIN.

For Evan Reid, his wife Kay, and their small daughter Laurie, the beautiful house in the small village was too good a bargain to pass up. Bethany’s Sin was
a weird name, but the village was quaint and far from the noise and pollution of the city.

But Bethany’s Sin was too quiet. There were no sounds at all…almost as if the night had been frightened into silence.

Evan began to notice that there were very few men in the village, and that most of them were crippled. And then there was the sound of galloping horses.
Women on horses. Riding in the night.

Soon he would learn their superhuman secret. And soon he would watch in terror as first his wife, then his daughter, entered their sinister cabal.

An ancient evil rejoiced in Bethany’s Sin. A horror that happened only at night…and only to men.”

The third written, but second published, this is a really freaky book if you’re a man.  I mean, sure, there have been books that have been published that effect everyone (can we say The Exorcist anyone?), but to only screw with the psyche of men?  Dude, that’s messed up! Especially when the writer is a male. If you can track this gem down at a used bookstore, and you happen to have the wrong equipment, lock your door before settling down to read this book.

1980 The Night Boat

“Deep under the calm water of a Caribbean lagoon, salvage diver David Moore discovers a sunken Nazi U-boat entombed in the sand. A mysterious relic from
the last war. Slowly, the U-boat rises from the depths laden with a long-dead crew, cancerous with rot, mummified for eternity.

Or so Moore thought.


Book two, yet number three.  Confused? Well, it’s because of Shockwaves.  Apparently, Mister McCammon’s publisher heard rumbling’s about this movie and asked that he hurry and write another book.  When the movie came out, and the stories were different, however, they published this novel.  Oddly enough, though, in Avon was not worried about the paperback release of Ghost Boat by George E. Simpson and Neal R. Burger which does have an almost identical plot (I am not suggesting plagiarism of story as story-lines are often similar and I have often come up with stories that, well FUCK! just so happened to have been turned into a movie/book/comic/you-name-it and don’t realize it until later).

Anyway, The Night Boat is a quick read that, while not scary, brings the reader into the mind of the tropics, even if they have never been there, as the writer had
not been at the time of writing.  This is one of those books that you read just for the fun of it, man.  It’s like the horror movies you catch late at night and watch:  more of  a guilty pleasure than anything.

1981 They Thirst




It looked like another ordinary day in Los Angeles

Then night came….

Evil as old as the centuries has descended upon the City of Angels—it comes as a kiss from the terrifying but seductive immortals. Slowly at first, then by the legions, the ravenous undead choke Los Angeles with bloodthirsty determination—and the hordes of monstrous victims steadily mount each night.

High above glitter city a deadly contest begins. In the decaying castle of a long-dead screen idol, the few remaining human survivors prepare to face the Prince of Evil and his satanic disciples. Whilst the very forces of nature are called into play, isolating the city from the rest of the world and leaving it at the mercy of the blood-hungry vultures of the night….


Theirs is a lust that can never be satisfied…”

For me, this is the book that really should have propelled Robert McCammon into the fray of horror.  Originally, the book was supposed to have been set in Chicago, but the Windy City didn’t have the proper feel, so the setting was changed to the City of Angels:  Los Angeles. Unlike Stephen King’s ‘salem’s Lot, uses the grand scale to focus our attention on the story.  It is dark and moody:  everything a vampire novel should be.  Most important:  nobody fucking sparkles (although if a movie
were to be made, I would not be opposed to seeing Ashley Greene somewhere because, well, let’s face it, she does make one sexy vampire).

1983 Mystery Walk

“Two boys with extraordinary powers…to use for good or evil.

Restless spirits roaming the dark Alabama woods, infesting a Chicago hotel, haunting an amusement park ride.

A lustful girl who drowns, then reappears.

A ghastly family massacre….

Wherever human fears hide, there in the shadows lurks the Shape Changer.

They were known as the healer and the demon-boy. They faced each other for the first time at a tent revival meeting. The inexplicable energy that passed between them frightened the two boys. Each began dreaming the same dream: an eagle made of smoke locked in combat with a snake made of fire. And seeing things: a bestial shape with glowing red eyes.

Billy Creekmore and Wayne Falconer would feel that same eerie charge every time their paths crossed over the next decade, as each undertook his Mystery Walk through life.

Billy used his powers to set the dead to rest in the traditional way his Choctaw grandmother had tutored him.

Wayne used his healing gifts to raise money for his minister father’s evangelical crusade.

One of them wanted the other dead.

The Shape Changer wanted both dead.

Not since Stephen King began terrorizing readers has a novel of such masterly horror as Mystery Walk appeared. Set in a deceptively sleepy Southern town, and reaching to the bleak deserts of Mexico, it is the story of two unforgettable characters on a collision course, thrust into a nightmare world in which good and evil—and reality itself—become toys in the hands of an ancient, unstoppable force. Its graphic description, driving narrative, and indelible images prove Mystery Walk
the best new horror fiction in many a year.”

This is an innovative story.  In many ways, I could argue that it is a prequel to Swan Song because of the Shift Changer, and those who have read both might be able to see that.  The two main characters both have special gifts, both different, and both raised in completely different lifestyles.  Perhaps what makes this stand out the most for me is that is has a literary feel. McCammon takes his time setting everything up with the characters.  The final confrontation between the two main
characters and the Shift Changer is brutal and bitter sweet.  If you want a non-stop thrill ride, this is not the book for you.  If you want a book
that is full of emotion, and more typical of literary classic, well then pick up a copy of this fantastic book.

1984 Usher’s Passing

“Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story “Fall of the House of Usher,” Robert R. McCammon makes a dazzling leap of imagination in this enormously entertaining and truly frightening novel. Usher’s Passing asks what if the Usher story hadn’t ended with the deaths of Roderick and Madeline over a century ago? What if they’d had a brother to carry the family name—and infamous legacy—into the future?

Set in North Carolina in the present, Usher’s Passing begins weaving its spell with the arrival of Rix Usher at the deathbed of his father. The powerful patriarch must hand over the family scepter to one of his three children. An antiwar activist, Rix wants no part of the $10 billion Usher Armaments business. His sister’s drug habit and brother’s gambling and drinking hardly recommend either for a position of such extraordinary wealth and influence. But whoever is chosen stands to inherit not
only the lucrative business of destruction…not only the vast, opulent estate that legend says is haunted by nightmarish creatures…but all the horrifying secrets of the Usher family’s mad heritage.

In Usher’s Passing, each of five generations has a tale to tell, and their stories move across time to lead Rix Usher into the haunted heart of Usherland, where he must face both who he is—andwhat he is.”

So many writers have written pseudo-sequels to already famous novels.  Most of them are writers who have never been published.  I’m sure everyone remembers Scarlett and the sequels to The Godfather and The Bourne series.  Let us not forget Robert Louis Stevenson III who capitalized on his famous ancestor and wrote Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Even Mister McCammon is not the only writer to write a sequel to “The Fall of the House of Usher.”  Even a man who claims to be related to Edgar Allan, Robert Poe, wrote a novel, Return to the House of Usher.

What makes this novel stand out is that it makes no illusions to be anything other than what it is:  love for the short story. Unless the synopsis hadn’t mentioned it (the paperback doesn’t by the way, I looked), most people wouldn’t know that there is any connection to the story until they get into book and Poe is mentioned.  Another thing that sets this book apart is that McCammon acts as if Poe wrote a history, not a story (by accident, mind you, but still a history).

The reader does not have to have knowledge of the original Poe story to enjoy this.  Certainly it does not lessen the enjoyment, but it does give some insight into the minds of the characters.

1987 Swan Song


An ancient evil roams the blasted nightmare country, an evil as old as time. He is the Man with the Scarlet Eye, the Man of Many Faces, gathering under his power the forces of human greed and madness. He is seeking to destroy a child, the one called Swan.

From Robert R. McCammon, one of the living masters of horror, comes a stunning tale of sheer fright and power where the end of the world is just the beginning of mankind’s ultimate struggle.

This is my favorite book.  I read it once a year, every year.  Have since 1995.  I love this book so much that my wife and I chose to get married on July 16th, the day the book starts.  Yeah, that’s nerdy, but for the people who know me, what can you expect?

Often compared to The Stand by Stephen King, this is much darker, much richer, more beautiful.  Whereas The Stand took place over a few months during the summer, the plague, while devastating never seemed to be so harsh (unless you were stupid enough to read the book during the whole H1N1 scare, and you know who I’m talking about!).  Swan Song was written with The Cold War in mind.   Nuclear winter, mutant animals, an army bent on destroying its enemies.  Then there’s Sue Wanda “Swan” Prescott:  the girl to balance it out.  Her protector is Joshua Hutchins, a
Professional Wrestler who goes by the name Black Frankenstein.  Hell, I’m getting weepy-eyed just writing
this, and I’m not even re-reading the book yet!

Now, I know there’s a lot of talk about turning this into a movie.  Screw that, man. Hollywood could never do it  any justice.  Even if someone were to  adapt this into a graphic novel, the visual medium would still be too  limited.   The best way, I think is to do  it as a Radio Play in 10 – 14 parts (one for each section, right?!) on the BBC  or something.  They did it for Lord of the Rings, Left Behind (Sister mentions The Rapture, so it should count, damnit!), War and Peace, and a ton of other stuff.  Why not this masterpiece?

1988 Stinger

“STINGER…an enemy more
fearsome, more hideous than the most heart-stopping nightmares. STINGER…who ravages a remote Texas town until the men and women of Inferno rise up in a
final, desperate battle. No evil yet known to man can match the searing hell of…STINGER.”

This is another one of those books that reminds me of the horror movies you catch on television sometimes.  It’s not one of his best, but certainly worth a read if you enjoy mindless entertainment.

1989 The Wolf’s Hour

“He is Michael Gallatin, master spy, lover–and werewolf. Able to change shape with lightning speed, to kill silently or with savage, snarling fury, he proved his talents against Rommel in Africa. Now he faces his most delicate, dangerous mission: to unravel the secret Nazi plan known as Iron Fist. From a parachute jump into occupied France to the lush corruption of Berlin, from the arms of a beautiful spy to the cold embrace of a madman’s death machine, Gallatin draws ever closer to the
ghastly truth about Iron Fist. But with only hours to D-Day, he is trapped in the Nazis’ web of destruction…”

I already wrote a review about this specific book,  so there’s not much else to say.  However  I will add a link to the Robert McCammon site so you can read what Mister  McCammon has to say about the book.

1990 Blue World

This is Mister McCammon’s collection of short stories.  Now, most writers, when they write, after a time, you can tell how their novels will end.  McCammon is no different.  His short stories, however, are different.  They often have dark endings that are not present in his novels.  In is collection, look out for the story “Make-up” which has special connections to They Thirst.  Also included is, of course, the title story, which Nitestar Productions used a scene from when auditioning for Project Greenlight.

1990 Mine

“With over five million copies of his work in print, Robert R. McCammon has earned the reputation as one of the most innovative storytellers of our time. His New York Times bestselling novels, Swan Song, Stinger, and The Wolf’s Hour, explore fantastic landscapes and the hearts and minds of those who inhabit them. Now
his dramatic new creation, MINE, rivals Thomas Harris’s The SIlence of the Lambs for sheer, riveting storytelling power. It is a novel of psychological terror and unrelenting suspense set against the backdrop of America today. Laura Clayborne is a successful journalist, the wife of a stockbroker with her own BMW and a house in the right Atlanta suburb. Her biological clock ticking down, her marriage foundering, Laura hopes that her newborn son, David, will make her life everything it ought to be.

Mary Terrell, aka Mary Terror, is a scarred and battered survivor of the radical ’60s. Once a member of the fanatical Storm Front Brigade, Mary now lives in a hallucinatory world of memories, guns, and above all, murderous rage. Prompted by a personals ad in Rolling Stone, she becomes convinced that the former leader of the Brigade, the man she knows  as Lord Jack, is commanding her to bring him the child she was carrying when her life and the lives of the other Storm Front radicals exploded in a bloody shootout with the FBI.

Mary Terror steals Laura’s baby from a hospital room, and heads west on her journey of the damned: clutching an innocent child to her side, killing anyone who gets in her way, searching for Lord Jack. Stunned, weakened, Laura realizes that the woman who stole her baby is getting away with it, and sets out to hunt her down. What Laura doesn’t know is that the closer she gets to Mary Terror the more she will have to learn to think and act like her—even to kill like her….”

Okay, if it’s good enough for Frank Darabont to want to make into a movie, why the hell hasn’t it been made into a movie?  I mean, COME ON folks?!  This is a great novel.  From the first page, it is non-stop.  This is edge of your seat action, man.  It really does not get any better.

1991 Boy’s Life

“The year is 1964. On a cold spring morning before the sun, Cory Mackenson is accompanying his father on his milk delivery route. Without warning a car appears in the road before them and plunges into a lake some say is bottomless. Cory’s father makes a desperate attempt to save the driver, but instead comes face-to-face with a vision that will haunt and torment him: a dead man handcuffed to the steering wheel, naked and savagely beaten, a copper wire knotted around his neck. The lake’s depths claim the car and the corpse, but the murderer’s work is unfinished as, from that moment, both Cory and his father begin searching for the truth.

The small town of Zephyr, Alabama, has been an idyllic home for Cory and his friends. But now, the murder of an unknown man who lies in the dark lake, his tortured soul crying out for justice, causes Cory’s life to explode into a kaleidoscope of clues and deepening puzzles. His quest to understand the forces of good and evil at work in his hometown leads him through a maze of dangers and fascinations: the vicious Blaycock clan, who defend their nefarious backwoods trades with the barrels of their guns; a secret assembly of men united by racial hatred; a one-hundred-six-year-old black woman named the Lady who conjures snakes and hears voices of the dead; a reptilian thing that swims in the belly of a river; and a bicycle with a golden eye.

As Cory searches for a killer, he learns more about the meaning of both life and death. A single green feather leads him deeper into the mystery, and soon he realizes not only his life, but the sanity of his father may hang in the balance.

Welcome to the imagination of Robert R. McCammon,  the New York Times bestselling author who now takes us on a whirlwind voyage into the realm where innocence and evil are on a collision course. Boy’s Life is a tour de force of magic and wonder, a journey that is at once joyful, unrelentingly mysterious, and hauntingly poignant.”

More than any other book, this is the reason I have decided to become a writer.  Perhaps subconsciously, I had this novel in the back of my mind when I wrote this.  I don’t know. Regardless, when I first read this, I was 12, the same age as Corey, the magic held inside those pages is exactly what is missing from our world.

1992 Gone South

“Gone South. In Vietnam Vet’s parlance, it means screwed-up, crazy. In the Deep South of the United States, it means dead.

Dan Lambert’s experiences in Vietnam have left him no stranger to psychological wounds or death. Years later, they have also left him divorced, broke, unemployed—and on the run. For Dan, to his shock and his shame, has become a murderer.

There is a $15,000 reward on his head—a reward that two weird bounty hunters will stop at nothing to get: a reward that doesn’t interest the brutally disfigured Arden Halliday. For Arden is after a different prize—one that she hopes to find deep in the dangerous swamps of Louisiana. Joining forces, Arden and Lambert head south—he to hide and she to seek. Yet there they will both become discoverers—of the dregs of American society, bloody violence, drug smuggling—and a curious destiny.”

I really didn’t like this book for a lot of the same reasons that I didn’t like Baal.  It just seemed too  angry.  Perhaps Mister McCammon was tired of the publishing game or being pigeonholed in the horror genre.  Either way, this book just came off like a big “Fuck You!”  The story is good, don’t get me wrong, but the tone is very bitter. A lot of that anger is lost in the audio edition read by Will Patton, which makes it more of a just straight story. The ending is worth it, even with the anger in the novel, and Pelvis is a great character, but this is far from my favorite book.

2002 Speaks the Nightbird

“Is there a witch in Carolina in 1699? The people of the town of Fount Royal think so. Her name is Rachel; she’s foreign, beautiful, and brave–no wonder so many people hate her.

Comes a traveling magistrate to hold a witch trial, and his clerk, Matthew. The evidence spells doom for Rachel: witch’s tools are found in her home, she will not speak the Lord’s Prayer, and witnesses swear they’ve seen her commit unspeakable acts with the Devil himself.

But Matthew hears the call of the nightbird. He wonders–is there any such thing as witchcraft? If Rachel can fly through the night on wings of evil, why hasn’t she escaped from the town gaol?

And the town itself–who murdered Rachel’s husband? How did the ratcatcher learn to hypnotize his prey? Who stands to gain if the witch is burned?

God and Satan are indeed at war in Fount Royal, and even the innocent are not safe. In the end, Matthew follows his head and his heart, and Rachel keeps an unlikely appointment with destiny.”

Now, this is a departure from what McCammon was known for.  An historical novel.  There’s a witch, sure, but is there really?  The original plan had been to write a Matthew Corbett novel, a non-series novel, then another Matthew Corbett novel, flip-flop back and forth if my memory serves correct.  He wrote a novel called The Village that was rejected and has since said is just for him.  You know what?  I dig that. Hot damn, he finally has a trunk novel (it only took 24 years)!

The language and spelling take a bit to get used to, but this is a mystery novel that ranks right up there with Dame Agatha Christie.  When the novel ends, and it is sad that it does, it leaves you wanting more adventures from the colonies.

2007 The Queen of Bedlam

“A richly atmospheric, labyrinthine new novel from bestselling author Robert McCammon, whose epic masterwork of colonial witch-hunt terror, Speaks
the Nightbird
, was hailed by Sandra Brown as “deeply satisfying…told with matchless insight into the human soul.”

Now the hero of that spellbinding novel begins a stunning adventure as a young law clerk in eighteenth-century New York, where a killer wields a bloody and terrifying power over a bustling city carving out its identity.

The unsolved murder of a respected doctor has sent ripples of fear throughout a city teeming with life and noise and commerce. Who snuffed out the good man’s life with a slash of a blade on a midnight street? The local printmaster has labeled the fiend “the Masker,” adding fuel to the volatile mystery … and when the
Masker claims a new victim, earnest, hardworking Matthew Corbett is lured into a maze of forensic clues and heart-pounding investigation that will test his
natural penchant for detection and inflame his hunger for justice.

In the strangest twist of all, the key to unmasking the Masker may await in an asylum where The Queen of Bedlam reigns … and unlocking her secrets will lead Matthew to not only the answers he seeks but chilling truths he cannot escape.”

The sequel to Speaks the Nightbird is one of the few books that surpasses the original. It is not necessary to read the first book to understand this one, but
this does hint at events from the previous adventure.  Like the first one, this is a mystery, but McCammon also sets up the rumblings of something more.  Pocket Books was foolish not to advertise this book, and to let the series go, as I’m sure that one day soon this will take off, and they will be kicking themselves in the ass.

On a side note, the villain from the third novel also makes an appearance, though only briefly and in passing, so keep an eye out.

2010 Mister Slaughter

“The world of Colonial America comes vibrantly to life in this masterful new historical thriller by Robert McCammon. The latest entry in the popular Matthew Corbett series, which began with Speaks the Nightbird and continued in The Queen of Bedlam, Mister Slaughter opens in the emerging metropolis of New York City in 1702, and proceeds to take both Matthew and the reader on an unforgettable journey of horror, violence, and personal discovery.

The journey begins when Matthew, now an apprentice “problem solver” for the London-based Herrald Agency, accepts an unusual and hazardous commission. Together with his colleague, Hudson Greathouse, he agrees to escort the notorious mass murderer Tyranthus Slaughter from an asylum outside Philadelphia to the docks of New York. Along the way, Slaughter makes his captors a surprising—and extremely tempting—offer. Their response to this offer will alter the course of the
novel, setting in motion a series of astonishing, ultimately catastrophic events.

Mister Slaughter is at once a classic portrait of an archetypal serial killer and an exquisitely detailed account of a fledgling nation still in the process of inventing itself. Suspenseful, illuminating, never less than compulsively readable, it is, by any measure, an extraordinary achievement, the largest accomplishment to date from one of our most gifted—and necessary—writers.”

Unlike the previous two, this is a straight adventure novel.  The change in tone, however does not diminish the impact as McCammon’s research shines through.  It is a fast paced and brutal novel.  The title character was inspired by Tod Slaughter , and this book does him justice.

2011 The Five

“Robert McCammon, author of the popular Matthew Corbett historical thrillers (Speaks the Nightbird, Mister Slaughter), now gives us something new and completely unexpected: The Five, a contemporary novel as vivid, timely, and compelling as anything he has written to date.

The Five tells the story of an eponymous rock band struggling to survive on the margins of the music business. As they move through the American Southwest on what might be their final tour together, the band members come to the attention of a damaged Iraq war veteran, and their lives are changed forever.

The narrative that follows is a riveting account of violence, terror, and pursuit set against a incredible, immensely detailed rock and roll backdrop. It is also a moving
meditation on loyalty and friendship, on the nature and importance of families—those we are born into and those we create for ourselves—and on the redemptive power of the creative spirit. Written with wit, elegance, and passionate conviction,The Five lays claim to new imaginative territory, and reaffirms McCammon’s position as one of the finest, most unpredictable storytellers of our time. ”

Anyone who has visited the McCammon website knows about DJ Rick.  He started with the Psycho 60s then moved onto Radio 678 which covers music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.Music is important is writing.  For The Five, the whole book is about music.  This is a throw back to Mine in style.  For fans of that book, they are sure to love this.

Now, for a special treat, for my fellow Batman fanatics, here are links to two stories that I think you will enjoy:  Night Calls the Green Falcon and On a Beautiful Summer\’s Day, He Was.

To order any of these books, click on the image below:

About MacJew

I am Husband to a beautiful woman, Father to two dogs and two cats. I am dovoutly Jewish. I love to read and write. I am trying to expand my horizons on film beyond the typical Hollywood garbage, so I have been watching foreign films lately. My plans for this blog are to talk about various things that are of interest to me, including Judaism, history, movies, books, et cetera. Anything that comes to mind, really.
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