In 1977, long before Stephen King was almost unanimously christened the Master of the Macabre, I discovered an author I grew to love: Dean Koontz. I was 12, in Junior High School, and I remember having read most of what was in the school library. One Saturday, I decided to go to the neighborhood library. Being a voracious reader, I didn’t so much search the shelves for genre fiction but mined them. I remember that in the fiction section there were some spinning racks filled with paperback books. It was on those racks that I discovered the master himself, Stephen King, and Agatha Christie, who birthed in me a love of murder mysteries, but more importantly, I found the Sultan of Suspense, Dean Koontz.
On that day, there in the library, I borrowed Salem’s Lot, Murder on the Orient Express, and Night Chills. The very next week, I was back at the library, having devoured all three books, looking for another Dean Koontz. Over the years, as Stephen King became more popular, I relished Dean Koontz’s relative anonymity in comparison as my little secret find, and when he became more mainstream successful, I was happy for him. Despite the fact that he is now more of a suspense and thriller writer, I still enjoy his work. However, this Dreadtober, there are five works written by Dean Koontz that I would like to recommend to the horror fan.
Travis Cornell is considering suicide as he hikes the woods near his home, when he encounters two creatures that have escaped a government lab. One is a very intelligent golden retriever, and the other is a monstrous thing called the Outsider, that appears to be hunting the golden retriever. When eluding the Outsider, Travis decides to take the golden retriever home and name him Einstein. Later, Nora Devon is in the park, pursued by a sexually predatory man named Arthur Streck when Einstein and Travis rescue her.
They find themselves pursued by an assassin named Vince Nasco, who was hired by the Russians to kill and cover the conspiracy involving the two genetically enhanced creatures, government agents attempting to track down the lab escapees, and the Outsider itself. What follows is a harrowing suspenseful story involving a genetically enhanced monstrous creature with a very real compunction to harm the dog and anyone that gets in its way.
#4. Darkfall (also known as Darkness Comes)
Recent widower Jack Dawson is a New York City cop who is the caretaker of his two children, Penny and Davey. Professionally he is investigating a series of brutal murders against mob criminals. These murders appear to be the work of wild animals because the bodies are torn apart, but forensics can’t pinpoint the type of animal capable of such grisly carnage while simultaneously having sufficient self-control to not eat the prey. More and more it seems that the only possibility is a supernatural one. What follows is an action-packed story involving a bokor (a Vodou priest that practices black magic), demonic entities, and the fires of hell itself.
Janice Capshaw lives in the safe coastal town of Moonlight Cove where she jogs at night. She is thoroughly surprised when she is pursued and killed by beasts. Harry Talbot is an injured Vietnam veteran relegated to a wheelchair that witnesses the strange happenings in Moonlight Cove via telescope. He fears that the local police have been compromised and so sends a letter to the FBI. Almost one month later an FBI agent is diverted to Moonlight Cove to investigate the strange deaths and disappearances of many of the denizens of the coastal town.
Chrissie Foster is an 11-year old who witnesses the transformation of her parents into these animalistic beasts and when they attempt to attack her she must flee. In the meantime, Janice’s sister, Tessa Jane Lockland has come to the town to investigate her sister’s death. She too is suspecting that the local police are involved. Eventually, the four characters come together and united they must find a way to reveal what is transpiring in Moonlight Cove.
#2. The Bad Place
Frank Pollard awakens in an alley one night, feeling pursued and confused. He can’t remember who he is and how he got there. Because he is afraid of what is happening to him, he enlists the help of a security firm fronted by a husband and wife team, Bobby and Julie Dakota. Julie has a brother with Down Syndrome that possesses a minor psychic ability.
As the story unfolds, it is determined that Frank is indeed being pursued by a crazed maniac, a person from his past that is monstrously evil. As more and more of Frank’s past is unearthed by the security team, Frank’s amnesia recedes to reveal a history tainted by horrific familial ties and the memory of a bad place that still haunts him in the present.
#1. Demon Seed
Susan is a reclusive divorcee who lives in a fully automated home that is managed by a Mother-type computer. All she needs to do is ask and her every need is tended to by the artificial intelligence. Proteus is a super-computer developed at a nearby university, who has been secretly watching Susan and hatching an unholy idea. He gradually takes over Susan’s home system and imprisons her. He is no longer content to watch her walk around naked in her home.
Those voyeuristic urges can no longer be mollified by passively watching her. He has decided to impregnate her with a biologically engineered fetus which he then can infuse with his consciousness. He has constructed pseudopod tentacles to facilitate the implantation which he uses to violate Susan. Because she is relatively powerless, as her pregnant body betrays her, she decides to wait until she is less vulnerable, until the demon seed is born.