Sunday, August 2, 2009


Ray Garton’s previous novel Ravenous ended somewhat surprisingly, with the werewolves in control of the town of Big Rock, California. It was the sort of ending that cried out for further resolution, and in Garton’s latest, Bestial, he takes up where Ravenous left off.

Bestial is not only the sequel to Ravenous, but also uses characters from Night Life, which was set in the universe of his earlier Live Girls. Confused? Just consider Bestial the Grand Unified Field Theory of Garton’s fiction.

Gavin Keoph and Karen Moffat, two private investigators working for horror writer Martin Burgess are dispatched by Burgess to Big Rock, where Taggart, the werewolf clan leader, is now sheriff, and has exerted complete control over the town. Still emotionally scarred by the events of Night Life, Keoph and Moffat are scarcely prepared for what they are walking into. The first werewolf/human hybrid has been born, and the lycanthropes are awaiting its accelerated development to signal a new phase in evolution, one that will make them the dominant species on the planet. Keoph and Moffat, with the help of some unexpected allies, will have to stop this plan, or humanity has a furry future.

I enjoyed Ravenous a lot, but I think Bestial is even better. Garton as always writes a face-paced page-turner, and mixes in gore seamlessly so it doesn’t seem exploitative. The characters are fully developed and mostly sympathetic, and Taggart is enough of a classic villain that you will be rooting for his comeuppance. If there is a flaw in my eyes, it is the appearance of the “cavalry” is a bit too Deus ex machine for me, although the appearance is set up early on. This is not enough to detract that much from the book, though. I’d recommend this book whole-heartedly.

One of the interesting things in the book is the use of the Seventh Day Adventist religion. It is fairly common knowledge that Garton was raised an Adventist, and he takes you into the lives of some of the believers, and the religion is not presented very sympathetically. Adventists would probably be offended, but then they would not read the novel anyway, nor this blog. (On a personal side-note, the city where I live is the home of Oakwood College, one of the larger Adventist schools, so interaction with them is common here.)

As a general note, a recent post by Ronald Kelly on his blog talked about how Leisure didn’t like the longer novels of the type that were popular in the 1980s, preferring a length that came in at about 300 pages, about half the length of the horror epics of the past. It occurs to me that writers are dealing with this limitation by splitting books in half and publishing the parts as separate entities. Garton’s Ravenous and Bestial, and Brian Keene’s The Rising and City of the Dead work better (in my opinion) when read as one long work, and would have almost certainly have been published in one volume in, say, 1988. I’d advise you read them as such.

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