Feb 072022

The Searching Dead is the first book in Ramsey Campbell’s Daoloth series. Campbell is a fantastic horror writer from Britain who has been writing since forever. He was a big fan of Lovecraft and creates Mythos-style stories, but leaves out the xenophobia and racism. In a lot of ways, I think he surpasses Lovecraft and is all around a much better writer. Campbell has developed his own cosmic horrors that stand on their own.

As for this book, Dominic Sheldrake is a 12 year old boy growing up in 1950’s Britain. Rationing is still in full force and people are very scared of the communists. Dom is starting a new school that is very religious. He has two friends, Jim and Roberta, who he has turned into a sort of pseudo kid investigator team, but puberty is starting to pull at the seams of this group.

There is also the matter of one of Dom’s teachers, Christian Noble. Mr. Noble is a welcome breath of independent thought in this religious school and something of a skeptic of conservative values. Unfortunately,. Dom also learns that his teacher is a spiritualist, who has his own strange purposes for the ghosts he summons for his followers. Weird shit is afoot.

My wife asked if this book was like Stephen King’s The Stand and I responded that it was more like the movie, A Christmas Story. The book plays out over the course of a year, skipping to crucial scenes and confrontations with friends and family. Dom is suspicious of his teacher, and does his best to investigate, but the kid is only twelve. Adults are the ones who thwart and harass Mr. Noble but Mr. Noble himself has no idea of how much Dom knows about his works. It is interesting and realistic take.

It is a creepy and unsettling book, but also one that paints such a vivid picture of post-war Britain and what it was like to live there. The narrator is Dom, looking back at his life and adding observations and thoughts that his young self was unaware of. It feels like a haunted memoir, but because the character is a child, you can see how an adult person would look back and wonder if it really happened.

All in all, a great book and an excellent introduction to a great writer.

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