First published back in September of 1985, Guy N Smith’s novel ‘The Wood’ was yet another pulp horror tale that came from the long line of novels from the prolific writing career of this pulp horror master.
From out of the pitch-black sky a WWII Nazi-bomber piloted by German fighter pilot, Bertie Hass, crashed into Droy Wood, on the outskirts of the quiet village of Droy. There were no survivors. However, from that day forwards, the residents of the nearby village of Droy know to keep away from the wood. For within its foggy and bog-ridden depths, many lives have been taken.
Now at the present day, Carol Embleton is on her way home late at night after dancing the night away at the local disco when she is forced to hide amongst the dark undergrowth of Droy Woods to escape a sex-crazed attacker named James Foster who appears to be stalking her.
The next day and there’s still no sign of Carol, so her boyfriend Andy Dark, a wildlife expert with the glorious title of ‘Chief Conservation Officer’, goes in search of her within Droy woods. The police soon get involved and by now they are looking for all three individuals - Carol, Andy and the crazed sex-killer James Foster.
It quickly emerges that the local girl Thelma Brown was the last to see Carol Embleton and so is asked by a police officer to accompany him to the woods to help locate the missing girl. When they arrive at the woods, Thelma realises that the officer has different motives in mind. Driven into a sex-crazed frenzied madness by the overpowering evil that is given off my Droy Woods, the police officer attempts to attack and rape Thelma, only to lose the girl in the thick undergrowth of the woods.
A thick layer of fog masks the landscape of the woods, and as it does, so the dark secrets that have been lying within its expanse come out. The woods hold more dark and deadly secrets than just the remains of a crashed WWII Nazi bomber. And the secrets it holds are not just dead, they're awake and out for the blood of the living...
Atmospherically the novel works incredibly well at creating an eerie setting for this tale of a haunted woods. Smith's descriptive nature towards the dark and foreboding woods is utterly superb, setting down an underlying creepiness throughout the length of the tale. With the atmospheric backdrop for the story firmly set, Smith takes up the reigns of delivering a plot literally crammed to the very rafters with ravenous pulp horror.
Very much in the same vein as Richard Matheson’s ‘Hell House’ (1971), whereby the author took the time-old classic concept of a ‘haunted house’ and ramped up the action-packed scenes of horror within it; Smith has done a very similar thing here with the idea of a haunted woods. Instead of lingering around the possibility of “is it or is it not haunted?”, Smith does away with any doubt from early on, and instead just gets right down to the nitty-gritty delights of wildly over-the-top horror.
Alas, this does not totally save the novel from the loosely-knit and altogether weak storyline that barely supports itself from the start of the novel to its eventual finish. The elaborate array of hauntings are certainly intriguing and imaginative, with plenty of pulpish flare, but are never developed enough to bring out anything more than seemingly random bursts of adrenaline-pumping horror. However, as disjointed and patchy as the horror-action is within the tale, it does deliver a brilliantly varied overall storyline to get stuck into.
Smith also manages to cram in his usual necessity for a graphic sexual attack or two. In fact, Smith pretty much goes to town with the rape scenes (or attempted rape scenes) in the novel. The dark forces at work within Droy Wood certainly have their own sleazy agenda going. This simply adds a further unnerving element to the hauntings, keeping the readers heart-rate thumping away at a mile a second when the action picks up once again.
However, the one sin a pulp horror novel of this nature should never fall foul of is to be boring. Pulp horror needs to be crammed with over-the-top violence, unashamed sleaze, potentially corny or clichéd characters, and above all an action-packed and exciting storyline that doesn't once let up. Alas, ‘The Wood’ does start to drag in-between each heart-in-mouth horror scene, with these lulling intersections too slow moving, making the story as a whole cumbersome and jerky to the reader.
The plot is far too loose, with little to no direction to keep the reader entertained by the overriding premise of the story. Hardly any development to the plot is apparent throughout, as the reader stumbles through a suggestive yet unsubstantiated tale of a haunted wood.
That said, Smith does throw in numerous moments of inspired originality that claw the reader back into the thick of the tale. Characterisation is mediocre, with a multitude of barely memorable characters meeting their demise, to then be almost instantly forgotten by the reader.
You usually know what you’re going to be getting with a Guy N Smith novel. Smith is a master of the intense and wildly over-the-top tales of elaborate horror. His unashamed use of excessive violence and depravity are what makes his tales so damn right entertaining. ‘The Wood’ does still have many of these moments, but without a strong storyline holding these together, the tale unfortunately fails to hold the readers' attention in-between the scenes of all-out horror action.
The novel runs for a total of 170 pages.
© DLS Reviews