First published back in November of 1987, Guy N Smiths novel Demons formed the sequel to his earlier classic pulp title Deathbell (1980).  Deathbell (1980) sat within the Hamlyn publication period of Smiths career, which is widely considered to be the golden period of the authors lustrous career. The later sequel, ‘Demons’, was published by Arrow, which also saw the releases of the novels Thirst II: The Plague (1987), Alligators (1987) and Bloodshow (1987) all within the same year.

DLS Synopsis:
Back in the quaint village of Turbury, life has carried on where a decade ago Martyn Hamilton had erected his giant Deathbell which he used to control his son who had ruined the slaves to the Seekers of Silence. This strange cult was formed in the mountains of Tibet, where the priests worshipped the deafening chimes of the Deathbells; cutting off the ears of their followers, allowing only the sound of the gigantic Deathbells to penetrate their eardrums. The chimes made these poor unfortunates into slaves, driving them in their madness to acts of bestial savagery.

Ten years after the death of the Hamilton family, the Deathbell has once again been erected within the chapel of Caelogy Hall. The local thug, Dai Charlton, and his two nervous friends were responsible for this foolish erection of the Deathbell, as a prank during one of their late night excursions. Unsurprisingly, the group of youths come to a nasty end when the Deathbell tolls just a single note, as it steadies itself high up in the now derelict Caelogy Hall.

Over the years, Turbury has slowly died away leaving only a small number of residents remaining in this now ghost-like village. After pressure from the local water authority to have the village submerged in water, allowing for a reservoir to take its place so that an enterprise in trout fishing can be realised, the town is evacuated to the nearby community of Bryncalid.

But Turbury doesn't stay fully submerged for long. With the Deathbell now back in action, the water that had submerged it suddenly mysteriously dries up. The derelict town of Turbury has seemingly risen from its watery grave, bringing with it the evil that surrounds the Deathbell. The few remaining inhabitants in the area are now cursed by the random tolls of this cursed bell. The haunting chimes turn the local farmer boy, Frankie Thomas, into a crazed murderer. The evil of the Deathbell has truly awakened once again.

A band of roaming hippies learn of the deserted village of Turbury, and so after being rejected from the grounds of a nearby magic mushroom festival, move on to the now resurfaced village. These carefree hippies make natural successors to the Deathbell's original Tibetan worshippers. A human sacrifice is soon required for the Deathbell, and so its chimes ring out, summoning a victim from across the local landscape...

DLS Review:
Following on from Deathbell (1980) was never going to be a difficult thing to do. Smith had already set down the impressively original premise to the book - with the unique idea of a bell that turns its deafened followers into savage murderers.

However, with Demons Smith has produced a novel that plods along at a somewhat broken pace, never really getting anywhere until the final couple of chapters. This fractured and ultimately loose storyline makes the tale seem like small snippets of an ongoing larger story.

There are moments of real underlying darkness within the novel that will satisfy any good Guy N Smith fan. The chapter where the reservoir drains away, revealing the figure of a man squirming in the mud around the derelict and decaying village of Turbury, is truly a haunting moment.

The rampage of Frankie Thomas on his parents and his nearest neighbour, Vicki Mason, is nothing short of classic pulp horror violence. Indeed, in Demons, Smith has managed once again to reflect the true power of the evil that is given off by the Deathbell. Further still, Smith's descriptive abilities detailing the madness induced by the bell's clanging tones is remarkably eerie and downright menacing. The inclusion of the first-person-perspective at the moments when the madness hits them, adds another cunningly creepy dynamic to the tale.

Alas, for all of its strong points, Demons falls short on so many others. The developing relationship between the principal characters of Aden Darrell (the new bailiff for Turbury reservoir) and Vicki Mason (Turbury school's ex-principal) is laughable to say the least. Within a matter of a paragraph the two are practically fully-fledged lovers. Within the space of a few chapters you're thinking wedding bells will be accompanying the tones of the Deathbell.

That said, the characterisation throughout the rest of the novel is otherwise of a rich and well developed nature. As with many of Smith's novels, the more undesirable characters are given even more prominent characteristics. This certainly helps to bring them to life to a much greater extent in the short amount of time that they are present.

The grande finale is dramatic and conclusive, with a real edge-of-the-seat ending wrapping up the Deathbell stories. The ultimate conclusion is somewhat predictable, mostly due to blatant suggestions towards its plausibility that are hinted at a mere twenty odd pages beforehand.

After finishing the novel, what remains confusing is the chosen title for the book - Demons. At no point does the reader encounter any demons as such. The cover illustration also seems to hold no true bearing towards much of the storyline, which is very unlike the vast majority of other Guy N Smith novels.

All in all, Smith's novel ‘Demons' is an enjoyable pulp horror read, with plenty of over-the-top action and violence surrounded by dark and twisted horror, to keep any fan of this style of writing happy. Not quite as fast paced as many of Smith's other novels, the storyline does splutter somewhat with its pace on frequent occasions. In the end, it still makes for a suitably befitting sequel to his classic tale Deathbell (1980).

The novel runs for a total of 184 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Deathbell’ instalments:

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