First published back in July of 1982, Guy N Smith’s pulp horror novel ‘The Pluto Pact’ was released during the hey-day for the ‘dark occult’ subject matter of pulp horror novels. ‘The Pluto Pact’ was one of many such novels that cashed in on this current fad, delivering an eerie tale of an ancient curse, relived at our present time.
Back in 1595 where a Witchfinder rides into the Scottish village of Craiglowrie to execute the black magician Balzur. As Balzur is burning at the stake, he curses the Witchfinder and all of the people of Craiglowrie. The curse is a pact that Balzur makes with the great god Pluto to send a fire to consume the people of Craiglowrie and all of their descendents. From that time onwards the people of Craiglowrie suffer terrible deaths, with a disease that spreads over their bodies in burning rashes. But there were always a few that survived the disease - enough to transmit the curse through the centuries that followed.
It’s now the present day and Bob Coyle, the editor of the local rag the ‘Craiglowrie Herald’, has been attempting to warn the local people of the devastating dangers involved with the new nuclear waste reprocessing plant that is being built on the outskirts of the village. Coyle has dubbed the new construction simply as the ‘Holocaust’.
Meanwhile, Coyle’s son Richard is consumed with rage when his girlfriend discovers he’s contracted a rather disgusting venereal disease. His anger is expelled on his girlfriend, Linda Lakin, in a brutal assault that leaves her dead. Such frenzied violence is far from Richard Coyle's normal persona.
Richard Coyle isn’t the only one to suddenly find himself unleashing a violent fit of rage upon a seemingly innocent victim. The local vagrant Rupert begins hearing a voice in his head telling him to kill. Rupert assigns this voice to that of a prophet and begins murdering randomly; whenever the voice commands him to. But the dead spirit of Balzur is less than generous even to those who serve him.
The sudden murders are connected in some way, and with his son now under a police investigation for murder, Coyle begins to suspect the legend of Balzur’s curse might actually hold more weight than that of a simple myth. With the new nuclear waste processing plant’s construction now fully underway and the first nuclear ‘accident’ already reported, Coyle’s fears extend past that of just Craiglowrie and now out to the devastating effects that could be unleashed upon the whole world. What if Balzur’s curse is actually real?...
Drawing on the recent fad for the ‘dark occult’ style of novels, Smith has produced an intensive and deliberately eerie tale of continually mounting tension. With the general direction of the plot firmly cemented within the first couple of chapters, the proceeding storyline is given over to delving into the brutality and pulpish delights of the curse. In doing this, Smith keeps the pace constantly building in momentum, with the death count rising and an even more horrific presence always lurking behind the gory murders.
Smith's characters are rich and well developed, with a gritty realism portrayed to each one, no matter how insignificant their role in the tale may be. Further still, the concept of a nuclear disaster is a hauntingly real prospect (particularly at the time of writing), which successfully keeps the tale close to our current ecological fears. Indeed, the character of Bob Coyle has many similarities to that of James Gardener from Stephen King’s ‘The Tommyknockers’ (1987) with his obsessive fear of utilising nuclear power.
With the storyline spiralling to near epic proportions, and humanity now on the very brink of utter annihilation from Balzur’s curse, Smith draws the tale to its grand finale, knitting together all of the aspects of the plot into one final showdown. Whether you deem the tale's ending as satisfying or not, it is what it is. Even with its elaborate occultist finale, the ending is certainly not the strongest part of the book, but is does wrap the tale up pretty successfully.
All in all ‘The Pluto Pact’ remains a menacing and creepy tale that builds upon an intense pace from the very outset. With moments of harsh violence scattered throughout the storyline, Smith has delivered a dark tale mixing together aspects of the occult with a potential ecological disaster on truly epic proportions. A thoroughly enjoyable read packed with everything a pulp horror fan is after.
The novel runs for a total of 187 pages.
© DLS Reviews