First published in April of 2010, forming Aswang Press’ debut release; Guy N Smith’s novel ‘Nightspawn’ bounded ever closer to the prolific pulp horror authors 100th published novel.  Although the novel was first released in 2010, the story is actually the eventual release of a previously unpublished full-length manuscript entitled ‘The Trollop’ (which I personally think is a far better and more fitting title) from a number of years back.  The age of the tale is evident throughout (with references to smoking in pubs, aged phone-bugging equipment etc), having not been edited to bring the text up to date before its release.  This is a surprising omission for the publisher’s debut release, especially with unfortunate abundance of typos that remain throughout the text.

DLS Synopsis:
When
Teresa Johnson’s car accidentally prangs that of her neighbour Sylvia Kline’s car, Teresa is quick to insist that the accident was not her fault, even when there is no doubt at all that it was.  But Sylvia is not a woman to take such deceit against her and in a moment of anger curses the woman, hoping that a real accident will befall her sometime soon.  That very same day, Teresa is involved in a fatal car accident.  And so, upon hearing the news, Sylvia begins to question her possible involvement in the accident from her off-handed curse.  However Sylvia feels no real pity for the woman, even in here death.

Sylvia's husband, Mervyn Kline is a drunken lout who rarely spends any time with his family; any time that he does have at home is spent abusing and viciously oppressing his wife.  Both of his kids, Jackie and Malcolm, have become to despise him.  His time is instead spent at the local pub, The Cross, where he spends each night heavily drinking with all of the other locals, before driving home to his downtrodden wife and unwanted kids.

After spending the last twelve years of her life being oppressed by her ungrateful and obtrusive husband, Sylvia hesitantly agrees to begin an affair with one of her unknowing-husbands business contacts.  As the affair flourishes, so does Sylvia's confidence and defiance in the face of her aggressive husband.

Strangely erotic and powerful feelings are gradually coursing their way through Sylvias voluptuous body.  Where Mervyn rarely touches her, other than in unwanted drunken fumblings, cold formless hands now begin to explore her body.  In her newly found power (and with the help of a drop of Mervyns whisky), Sylvia accepts this bodiless visitation to have its way with her.  She is beginning to allow this cold dark presence to take hold of her life.

Finding a new strength in the dark powers that are taking over her, Sylvia digs up the recently deceased corpse of an un-baptised baby from the local graveyard.  She takes the small lifeless corpse away with her; cooks the dead infant body and consumes the flesh.  The remaining bones are then buried at the bottom of their garden.  For the cooking and consumption of an un-baptised babys flesh is a practice from the witches of old.  Sylvia is now learning and embracing the ways of her new life.

A number of days later, the neighbours dog, Gerry, finds its way into the Klines backgarden and begins to sniff around the exact area where the babys remains were recently buried.  In her fury at the dog's intrusion, Sylvia kills the canine with just a quietly spoken curse.  Her powers as a witch are strengthening by the day.

By now the locals are beginning to gossip about Sylvia, with muttered whispers of witchcraft and her unashamed affair with Gary Levite.  The Kline kids begin to suffer from taunts and bullying at school.  Sylvias rage builds and her revenge at those that wish to spite her and her family now consumes her.  For the torment and pain that Mervyn has caused Sylvia over the last twelve years, Sylvia will have her revenge.  And the same applies to anyone else who attempts to cause any grief to her or her children.

Sylvia Klein has now devoted her life to Satan.  Gary Levite has become her doting slave.  Together they will perform the darkest, most hideous acts in the name of their one true master.  And anyone who stands in their way, including her evil husband, will suffer…

DLS Review:
From the outset, Guy N Smith sets down a downbeat tale of abuse, oppression and mounting inner-hatred.  The atmosphere is constantly tense, with Sylvia
s fury building from the very first chapter.  The result is a tale that intensifies as it progresses; the underlying tension mounting with each incident that befalls the character of Sylvia Klein.

Characterisation is set down and developed upon in Smiths usual textbook style, allowing for rich characters to weave their individual plots around the revenge heavy storyline.  The character of Gary Levite is perhaps the most intriguingly understated.  His complete and utter besotted admiration for Sylvia is never truly examined.  Obviously she has a darkly enhancing power over him; but the lengths in which he will follow her and his inner turmoil with the horrendous deeds they perform in the name of ‘The Old One, are only briefly touched upon. 

Aside from the lack of editorial modernising of the tale and the appalling volume of typos, the novel does flow with a good and steady pace.  The sacrilegious acts of witchery are graphic and suitably gritty in their pulp horror delivery.  The unashamedly over-the-top levels of sexual deviance that dominate the entire length of the storyline, simply furthers the gloriously pulpy quality of the novel.

The novel is purposefully split in half, with the first half dealing with the mounting inner-fury and underlying tension, and the latter half delivering the all-out blasphemy and the resulting elaborate acts of revenge.

Guy certainly has a no-holds-barred approach to the levels of stomach churning, grotesquely vivid and downright shocking passages of blasphemous gore.  In true Shaun Hutson ‘splatterpunk style, Smith microwaves a dead baby, which is then carved up and cannibalised.  The constantly unflattering way in which Sylvia is addressed and depicted throughout the novel is also suitably far from being deemed as politically correct.  Indeed, one cant help but draw fond memories of Smiths early tale ‘The Sucking Pit (1975) from much of the literary nature of the story.

The novel ends on somewhat of a weakly profound note; attempting to symbolise the evil of alcohol, whilst mirroring the witch trials of the medieval ages.   Although the novel is certainly wrapped-up of a fashion, many equally intriguing aspects of the tale, which are merely hinted towards, remain unchallenged.  This is a shame, as it ultimately leaves the reader feeling moderately unsatisfied with the final conclusion to the tale.

For its sheer unashamedly pulpy nature until the gritty finale, ‘Nightspawn is a sure-fire winner.  The decision to rename the tale from its original, pulpier title of ‘The Trollop, is in my honest opinion a mistake.  The new title is as vague as it is clichéd, with little to no relevance to the story at all.  The original title fully embraces the pulpy quality of the tale, giving it the unforgettably brazen name that speaks volumes for the tale in one simple word.

The novel runs for a total of 202 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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