First published back in October of 1976, Guy N Smith’s paperback novelisation of the Tyburn Film’s (a later-day successor to Hammer and Amicus) production of ‘The Ghoul’ was one of this prolific horror writer’s earliest publications. The novelisation followed soon after the release of Freddie Francis’s film which starred Peter Cushing alongside the likes of John Hurt and Alexandra Bastedo. Smith’s paperback is now reasonably scarce and somewhat of a collectable rarity for Guy N Smith enthusiasts.
It’s 1926, and a party is underway in a particularly well-to-do area of London, where Daphne Hunter and her friend Billy, challenge two fellow party goers (Geoffrey and Billy’s sister – Angela) to a midnight car race. The challenge is set for the race to run all of the way to Lands End and back.
The race gets quickly underway and soon enough Daphne and Billy are in the lead, when they suddenly run out of petrol in the middle of a foggy moor, deep within a desolate region of Dartmoor. Billy goes off in search of a petrol station leaving Daphne to wait in the car. However, not far away from where their car is parked lies a rather grande gothic estate belonging to a now rather ageing Lawrence. The estate’s groundskeeper, Tom Rawlings, stumbles upon Daphne, stranded and alone in the car, and after knocking her unconscious, takes her away and locks her in his shed with him. When Daphne awakens, she manages to escape from Tom, fleeing to the house where she encounters Lawrence and his Hindu maid ‘the Ayah’ (the nurse).
However, behind closed doors and away from Lawrence’s watchful eyes, the Ayah is performing some dark and evil rituals. After Daphne is escorted to a room for her to rest for a while, the Ayah unleashes a dark secret that has laid waiting in the house. Away from prying eyes, Daphne is sacrificed to this dark and insatiable bloodlust.
With Billy, Geoffrey and Angela all now in the nearby vicinity, it’s just a question of how long Tom Rawlings and the Ayah can keep this evil secret hidden behind closed doors. More sacrifices will follow, with Tom stopping at nothing in order to keep this a secret...
Guy N Smith’s novelisation of the Tyburn Film is an eerie and atmospheric piece of fiction that keeps up an underlying tension throughout the entirety of the tale. Smith encapsulates perfectly the essentially creepy interior of Lawrence’s gothic home, setting the developing storyline on a very purposeful edge from the very moment that Daphne meets Lawrence and the (downright eerie) Ayah.
The mood continues to project a constant air of foreboding when Geoffrey and Angela separately arrive at the house. From here on in, Smith cranks up the pace of the novel delivering an edge-of-the-seat read until the very end. Lawrence’s disturbing secret isn’t exactly a huge surprise for the reader, but the actual un-curtaining still remains moderately haunting in its own peculiar way. The sheer atmospheric intensity of Smith’s writing has successfully created a truly terrifying ‘ghoul’, with an abundance of vivid descriptions of the grotesque being fleshing out a harrowing image.
Characterisation is, as with the majority of Smith’s work, of a great importance and bearing on the developing plotline. Smith embraces this emphasis on the characters with vigour, spending much of the novel fleshing out the characters, their emotions and reactions to the events, and ultimately their connection with the ever-present reader.
All in all, the tale is somewhat of a slow starter, but once the eerie thrills are underway, Smith delivers a chilling story that is pure edge-of-the-seat reading until the very final end. The novel concludes in a dramatic and utterly downbeat fashion, to keep even the most morbid of horror readers smirking with sadistic joy.
The novel runs for a total of 128 pages.
© DLS Reviews