First published back in October of 1982, ‘The Lurkers’ was yet another pulpish delight offered up from the British pulp master Guy N Smith.

DLS Synopsis:
Having secured an impressive publishing fee for his first novel, Peter Fogg, together with his wife Janie Fogg and their son Gavin, relocate to the cold rural Welsh mountains, to begin a new, quieter lifestyle.  Their new home, a typical dilapidated Welsh country cottage named Hodre is stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  The nearest form of civilisation being that of the small village of Woodside.  All in all, a very different setting to that of Perrycroft where they had uprooted from.

A week in and their nine-year-old son was already encountering hostility at the local school.  The notoriously thuggish twins Jon and Mark Wilson had taken exception to Gavin’s presence at the school.  In their eyes, and indeed that of their older twin brothers’ and indeed their father’s eyes, the English had no place in their local Welsh community.  And so they planned to make their message loud and clear.  Go back…or deal with the consequences.

Determined to stay at Hodre so that he can work on his second novel, Peter Fogg goes to speak to the school’s headmaster, Malcolm Hughes, in order to clear up this nasty case of bullying.  But it soon appears that the Wilson family have some sort of stranglehold over the likes of the cowardly headmaster, and Fogg comes away feeling like little has been accomplished from their meeting.

And it gets worse when, in the foggy night the older Wilson twins, Dai and Ralph, come tearing across Hodre’s surrounding ground on their motorbikes.  The brutish twins are chasing a very terrified Gavin, only narrowly missing him as they rip up the turf with their motorbikes.

After seeing the twins off, the Fogg family continue to be subjected to a growing local hostility, escalating with the sadistic murder and mutilation of the family’s pet cat, Snowy.  Next their replacement rabbit goes missing, during which the Fogg family are provided with stories from the local poachers regarding the cursed property of Hodre and the nearby sacrificial stone circle.  Stories designed to scare the family off of Hodre for good.

But Peter Fogg isn’t going to be intimidated by any of this hostile behaviour.  He’s got a book to write, and to hell with the tiresome stories of druid sacrifices and the like.  With or without his family, he is going to stand up to the thugs and bullies.  But in the dark of the overlooking woodland, how can you stand up to the lurkers when you can’t even make them out from the menacing gloom?

The trouble in the Welsh mountains is only just starting…

DLS Review:
Smith starts out with his usual intrinsically involved fleshing-out of the key characters – here with the Fogg family.  It’s a typical relocating to the countryside problem, with the unwanted arrival of ‘townies’ causing mounting hostility in the petty minds of a few born-and-bred locals.  And from this bitter acorn, Smith gradually begins to build up a wall of hostility, with the main culprits for the more sadistic actions never quite identifiable.

Indeed, this overwhelming feeling of the unknown that is constantly tormenting this poor family is the prevailing theme to the entirety of the tale.  The family (particularly Janie) can feel that they’re being watched.  They can feel the eyes of the lurkers outside the cottage of Hodre, staring in at them each night.  It’s a mounting feeling of unease that Smith toys with perfectly, building up a nervous tension that puts the Fogg family (and through them the reader) on absolute tenterhooks.

As things develop and invariably get a whole lot worse for the Fogg’s, Smith starts to inject the possibility of a more supernatural aspect to this torment.  However, each attack on the Fogg family carries on being delivered by an unknown or unidentifiable foe, and the bitter questions just keep piling up.  And so the sheer malice behind the attacks continues to escalate, the gripping tension of the tale building and building until it edges closer to a final pinnacle for Peter Fogg.

With a storyline offering up none of the usual sex, and only sporadic bursts of violence (up until the final quarter that is!), the tale seems a little more subdued than the usual Guy N Smith offering.  However what is usually put into delivering a barrage of violence, sex and action-packed thrills, is instead used for building on this nerve-wracking atmosphere of mounting tension.

Okay, so the plot is pretty darn simple.  There’s not a massive amount in the storyline.  No complex interweaving subplots and lurid secondary love interests.  But Smith instead toys around with an oppressive wall of open questions that utilise the overbearing threat of the unknown.  The lack of any real understanding behind exactly who is responsible for the torment (other than the initial bullying of young Gavin) successfully adds an additional sinister level to the tale.

It all works remarkably well.  Admittedly we’re not dealing with a literary masterpiece here, not by any stretch of the imagination.  But what we do have is a tale that sticks to a tight pace, pushing ever forwards with tension, suspense and nail-biting horror.

The novel ends quite satisfyingly; wrapping itself up nicely with a somewhat surprising turn in events.  But like the rest of the proceeding storyline, it simply works.

The novel runs for a total of 158 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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