Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Night Boat

I’ve been a huge fan of Robert R. McCammon since early in his career. He was one of the stars of the horror surge of the 80s, and it is our loss that he no longer writes in the genre. At one point, he was probably second only to Stephen King among horror fans, and he was pushing King for the top spot when he abruptly took an extended sabbatical from writing, after a disagreement with his publisher. (On an irrelevant note, I’ve met McCammon a couple of times, since we lived in the same city for a while, and he is a genuinely nice guy. As I have found writers generally to be, although Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a definite exception to that. But I digress.) The Night Boat was one of his first four novels, which he semi-disowned after a while, thinking he did not come into his own as an author until Mystery Walk. As a result, this book and the other three (Baal, Bethany’s Sin, and They Thirst) have been mostly out of print for a while. I would agree that McCammon’s writing took a great leap upward with Mystery Walk, becoming much more polished and assured, and delving deeper into his characters. However, I still feel the early books are well worth seeking out, and while they may be lesser McCammons, are still better than mostwriters.

The Night Boat is the story of a man named David Moore. After a boating accident killed his wife and child, he fled to the fictional Caribbean Island of Coquina, where he runs an inn. One day, while scuba diving in the waters just off the island, he dislodges a WWII-era depth charge, which explodes. The explosion dislodges a Nazi submarine buried throughout the years under the silt, and it rises to the surface, where it drifts toward the island, eventually beaching itself in the harbor. Unfortunately for the residents of the island, the crew of the submarine was placed under a gypsy curse after shelling the boat docks of the island during the war, and its crew has been condemned to exist as the living dead. Now released, the zombified Nazis wreak havoc on the island. Don't ya just hate when that happens?

This is not an overly deep book. It won’t change your life or make you re-evaluate your existence. But, c’mon. Nazi zombies attacking from a haunted submarine? Who can resist that? Although some of the characters are a little bit cardboard, it is still pretty well written. If Mr. McCammon doesn’t wish to claim it, I sure wish I could.


John Hornor Jacobs said...

I remember this one. I haven't read any McCammon in almost fifteen years. I need to try and dig up some of his stuff. I remember loving Swan Song, and the vampire one, and Gone South and A Boy's Life.

I just received an old copy of Bethany's Sin which doesn't look too promising on the outside. We'll see, though.

John Hornor Jacobs said...

das nacht boot, ja.