First published back in January of 2016 ‘Prince Of Nightmares’ formed the debut full-length novel for Scottish author and magazine editor John McNee.

DLS Synopsis:
When Josephine Teversham killed herself, notorious multi-millionaire tycoon Victor Teversham’s whole world fell apart.  He had loved his wife more than anything.  And now she’d left him forever, with no inkling for the reasons why, other than the short but bitter suicide note written in lipstick and left on the bathroom mirror – “God forgive me.  I married an evil man”.

Victor Teversham was certainly far from perfect.  He was a ruthless businessman with a long trail of controversy and shady past-dealings.  But he’d done very well from it all.  But now, pushing on eighty years old, he suddenly found that he was just as vulnerable as everyone else.

However, when Victor learns that immediately prior to her death his late wife had made a reservation at the Ballador House Hotel under his name, he decides he will honour the reservation in the hope of garnering some clue to why his wife took her life.  And so the aging industrial tycoon has Harry - his loyal bodyguard and assistant – drop him off at the vast County House so he can spend four nights alone with his thoughts.

But Ballador House is no ordinary hotel.  Since opening up to the public a decade ago, the house has made a unique name for itself in the world of the paranormal.  A stay in one of its many rooms pretty much guaranteed a ghostly visitation.  Thrill seekers, the curious and oddballs alike flock from all over the globe to stay at the legendary Ballador House Hotel.  And of course the new owners had capitalised on the hotel’s unique properties for all they were worth.

Following another guest’s reallocation, Victor Teversham had been put into the Honeymoon Suite, looking out across the loch.  It was the room that was reportedly haunted by The Drowned Maid.  And sure enough, Victor was visited by a nightmarish entity during his first night in the hotel.  However, there seems to be something more intimate behind these malevolent visitations.  Something connecting Victor to the house and its inhabitants.  And so Victor decides to continue his stay and see what the great house has to offer.

After all, he’s here for answers.  To gain some understanding from beyond the grave.  Deep in his heart he’s hoping to see her, if only in a dream, once again.  Even if it has to be a nightmare…

DLS Review:
The cover of McNee’s book is very illustrative of the weirdness that is contained within the book’s pages.  First and foremost what you have with McNee’s debut is a gradual descent into a nightmarish madness that consumes the entire plot.  And if ever there was an absolute key word in a review, “Nightmarish” would undoubtedly be the one to choose for this strange and unnerving exploration into the depths of the human psyche.

Initially what you have is a story that toys with a jigsaw-like mystery; building up the overall picture piece by piece. Via the principal character of Victor Teversham we’re flung headfirst into the unknown, as we watch our aging anti-hero try to get to grips with the nightmarish visions being witnessed within the walls of Ballador House.

McNee’s decision to have a moderately dislikeable principal character is an interesting if not brave move.  From the outset it’s tough to connect and sympathise with the character.  Don’t get me wrong, McNee’s done a grand job with bringing out the personality of his protagonist.  There are flaws, depth and a strong personality.  But with such an important role to play in the tale, you can’t help but feel that the character needed something more.  Something that makes him more defined – more identifiable and ultimately more real.

Alongside this McNee offers up some pretty nightmarish visions of a hotel plagued by entities, seemingly from somewhere very south of heaven.  Like a strange amalgamation between Clive Barker’s ‘Hellraiser’ (1987) and Richard Matheson’s ‘Hell House’ (1971) – McNee doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever when he decides to unleash his messed-up nightmares and ghostly visions.

If you’re expecting floating entities in white sheets terrorising a bunch of hapless guests then you’ve come to the wrong party.  Our nightmarish residents are terrifying manifestations from the depths of a very dark mind.  Indeed, some are almost Cenobite like in there perverse S&M-meets-hell manner.  Others offer a repulsive vision of personal violation that sends shivers down your spine.  Put it this way – a walk in the park this most definitely is not.

For all its in-your-face visceral and grotesque imagery, John McNee’s ‘Prince Of Nightmares’ is nevertheless still an odd and weirdly disorientating read.  Somewhat akin to a very bad acid trip, where everything you see seems to get infected by an overriding messed-up oddness – the tale is constantly jump-starting itself from one nightmare to another.  The end result is an incredibly staggered tale that constantly sends the reader to the edge of a cliff and back – with little progress other than the slow plodding of the main plot which almost sits ‘behind the scenes’.

I have to be honest and say that there were aspects in the tale that didn’t sit all that well with me.  The flow of the novel was a tad too disjointed, the characterisation outside of our lead man was devoid of anything as a reader you could really latch on to, and the tale’s overall direction was just that little bit too clouded.  Furthermore, the ending, although well-thought through and cleverly bringing the pieces of the strange puzzle together, still felt lacking in backbone and an impactful finality.

Nevertheless if you want to be tossed headfirst into an endless stream of nightmares and cloyingly visceral horror then McNee’s ‘Prince Of Nightmares’ offers you one hell of a grim escape from your day-to-day life.  It’s bleak, oppressive and pore-cloggingly dark.  There’s some strange and twisted stuff going on in these pages.  Welcome to a world of sleepless nights.

The novel runs for a total of 200 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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