First published back in June of 1988, British pulp horror veteran Guy N Smith’s novel ‘Fiend’ saw the author’s return to the publisher Sphere Books – a good twelve years since their only previous publication of Smith’s work with ‘The Ghoul’ (1976).  The novel saw one of the longest page counts for any of the author’s novels, as well as a glorious piece of cover artwork by Les Edwards.

DLS Synopsis:
Unbeknown to the general public, the Soviet leader Andre Keschev had just died of a heart attack whilst out hunting wild boar in the wilderness of Russia.  Deputy leader Yuri Denanko knows that this could well cause problems for him and indeed the rest of the nation.  For under Keschev’s rule, the Denanko had in effect been guiding the gutless Soviet leader as if he was merely a puppet to his will.  Now with his sudden death, the deputy leader’s plans for the future of Russia are in serious jeopardy.

One small chance to rescue the situation remains.  Without the public knowing of the untimely death of their leader, if Keschev was to be brought back to life somehow, then all the problems would simply evaporate.  And so Denanko enlists the help of Anton Yafremov – the leader of their official occult department.  His order - to resurrect the corpse of Andre Keschev.

Drawing on all of his knowledge of the occult, Yafremov actually succeeds in his blasphemous task.  The Soviet leader lives once again!  But his flesh remains cold, his heart stays motionless, and there can now be seen an unmistakeable burning hatred within his eyes.  No longer is the leader of Russia just a puppet for the wills of Yuri Denanko.  The once dead leader has taken back his control.  And with that, he begins to implement the first stages in his war on the world.  First step being the advancement of troops on the Pakistani front as well as the mass slaughter of all those who have accepted religion within their lives within his atheist country.  It’s time their nation stood tall against its rivals and the true threat to their country.

Ex-Soviet spy turned British spy - Sergey Prokop watches and waits.  He must report back to the Western world what is taking place here in Russia.  But as Keschev’s orders of mass genocide and the growing threats towards their neighbouring countries quickly begin to cause outcry across the globe, sudden deaths begin to emerge amongst those that oppose the leader’s authority.  Attempted assassinations on Keschev under the direct orders of the deputy leader keep ending with the death of the would-be-assassins.  It seems nothing can destroy this undead tyrant hell-bent on a mission of utter destruction…

DLS Review:
Set in the oppressive and seemingly cloak-and-dagger location of Russia in the late 1980’s, from the very outset the novel is immediately unlike the vast majority of Smith’s other pulp horror novels.  Without being set in the usual rural Shropshire backdrop that forms the author’s own homeground, the massive change in location is quite starkly out of place for the author.

However, Smith manages to adapt to the entirely new location of Russia with ease.  With a basic amount of research on Russian customs under his belt, Smith has pulled off an oppressively gloomy atmosphere that sets the reader on edge from the very first page.

As the plot is gradually realised, and the fiendish resurrection of the undead Andre Keschev declares his horrendous new commands, the pace of the tale quickly picks up from what had thus far been a somewhat plodding early pace.  From here on Smith throws in a barrage of plots to kill the despicable undead leader – each one ending in copious bloodshed.  Very much like ‘the now adult’ Damien from the likes of Gordon McGill’s ‘Omen III: The Final Conflict’ (1980), Keschev seems somewhat unstoppable in his power-hungry desire for murder and war. 

The violence is of the usual pulpish quality, with every chapter offering up a thick slab of violence and gore.  The adulterous love interest of Prokop’s fellow-spy Ursula Ramanninov adds an injection of sleazy sex along with an intriguing subplot revolving around Prokop and his alcoholic wife.

Characterisation is bulked-up and utterly over-the-top, but fits in gloriously with the gritty storyline.  Smith enlists a whole host of different characters throughout the length of the tale, more often than not killing them off just as the reader becomes properly acquainted with them.

Death is certainly everywhere in the book.  Barely a page goes by without some death or another playing a part in the tale.  To say this is a downbeat novel is the understatement of the year.  And so the novel ends on a similarly blunt note – and rightly so.  It ends well, wrapping up the storyline in a satisfying but still downbeat manner.

All in all the tale is certainly an engaging, compelling and pulpishly entertaining read.  With an almost non-stop barrage of developments and twists in the plot, the tale keeps up a brutish pace that throws down a long line of violent deaths until the final conclusion.  Another absolute pulpish treat from the undisputed veteran of pulp horror.

The novel runs for a total of 312 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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