By Liisa Ladouceur - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
Toronto crime writer Andrew Pyper takes a stab at his first proper horror novel with The Demonologist, a literary travelogue of terror about a father’s search for a daughter he believes has been kidnapped by demonic forces. Despite being rooted in the Biblical and marketed to fans of Elizabeth Kostova’s gothic bestseller The Historian, the story is wholly contemporary, tackling questions of faith and the supernatural in the modern age. Namely, what if Paradise Lost wasn’t fiction? And if you found that to be true, who would believe you?
Professor David Ullman is a former Torontonian now teaching English at Columbia University. His specialty is Milton’s classic text on the fall of man and the rise of Satan, the rebel angel—which he concedes is an ironic role for an atheist. When an old woman appears at his office offering a wild sum of money for him to travel to Italy simply to observe an unmentionable “phenomenon” on the same day his wife asks for a divorce, he gathers his bags, his melancholic teenage daughter and his uneasy curiosity and heads straight for Venice. It’s not what he finds there that rattles his soul (although that is scary enough), it’s what he loses: his daughter’s deadly fall from a rooftop into the canal is officially deemed a suicide but he’s convinced she lives on—in the Underworld.
Using clues gleaned from Paradise Lost and encounters with malevolent entities, Ullman sets off across America to rescue the girl, a journey marked by the Denny’s and Hampton Inns familiar to anyone who has spent long nights travelling the interstates. As the Devil’s minions make their presence felt, the professor is aware of the ridiculousness of his plight, a “teacher with a lapsed gym membership” facing down hell’s angels. Yet powered by a parent’s grief he steadfastly plunges headlong into the “darkness visible.”
The Demonologist reads like a ready-made screenplay, a fast-paced Exorcist-meets-Da Vinci Code where the actual horror happens off-screen, in the mind. Which, as Pyper surely knows from Milton, is where evil truly dwells.
Visit the Maclean’s Bookmarked blog for news and reviews on all things literary
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Plus, adventures of a prison librarian, a new novel by Andrew Pyper, a composer on his autistic twin sister, Annie Proulx’s dream home and one amazing dame
In mid-1914, Thomas Edward Lawrence was a shy, short (five foot five) polyglot (French, German, Arabic, Turkish) British scholar and textbook Freudian neurotic—a masochist with an outsized Oedipal complex, the illegitimate son of an Anglo-Irish baronet who had run away with the family governess. Still only 25, he had already walked across 1,500 km of the Mideast, then part of the Ottoman Empire, and had deliberately inured himself to pain and deprivation, while honing his leadership skills. He was possessed of a sense of destiny, the exact shape of which must have seemed obscure even to him. It is impossible to guess how his life might have unfolded had events not conspired, in the form of the First World War, to provide him with a field of operation large enough for his charisma and his military genius.
Korda, 77, the former editor-in-chief of Simon and Schuster, is a born hero-worshipper, and the author of earlier biographies of Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. In Lawrence of Arabia, Korda has found a figure worthy of his absorbing, detail-rich style, one who exceeds his previous subjects in sheer personal drama and rivals Ike in historical importance. Lawrence became one of the greatest guerrilla leaders of all time, mastering the small (devastating raids on enemy railways) and the large: as Korda convincingly argues, if his hero’s Mideast mapmaking, respectful of ethnic territory and ancient trade routes, had been followed after the war, the region might not have become the bloody mess it is today.
It’s possible to quibble with one of Korda’s central themes: that the anonymous, meat-grinder nature of combat during the Great War means that only a single warrior remains instantly recognizable. Canadians do remember Billy Bishop, for one, and—if only because of Snoopy—the Red Baron is probably more famous to Americans than their own Sgt. York. But on a larger, worldwide stage, Korda proves himself correct: T.E. Lawrence was the most important individual soldier of the war, a hero of mythic stature whose accomplishments still reverberate in contemporary geopolitics.
- BRIAN BETHUNE