The Straw Men

December 1, 2008

Do you believe in synchronicity? I do. Maybe it’s a trick the mind plays on us, but I find, quite often, that once something enters my life other elements of it fall into place.

An example: I was once visiting Toronto, and as I crossed a street a thought popped into my head, and I said to my companion “A friend of mine moved down here last year, and I should check to see if she’s in the phone book.” Just as I said that, the friend in question whipped by on her bicycle. It’s an amazing coincidence that I would even spot her in a city of millions, let alone just as I was talking about her.

Several years ago, I purchased a paperback novel by a guy called Michael Marshall. It was called The Straw Men, and was the first book in a long while to really scare me. Without going into too much detail, I will tell you it concerns a man whose parents die; when he goes to their home, he finds a videotape from his childhood that reveals a horrifying social experiment in progress, and he realizes he didn’t know his parents at all. This leads into the investigation of a monster serial killer and an ancient organization of people who live to exploit the dark, all culminating in a violent encounter at a terrible place called The Halls.

It’s a doozy of a book, a real exploration of violence and fear, better than almost anything else out there in mass-market paper. I found it again last year, bought it, and read it again, and it was every bit as good, even knowing the twists and turns coming. I saw also that there are two sequels to it: The Upright Man (known in the UK as The Lonely Dead) and Blood of Angels. I sought out these books … but no luck. The chain bookstores here don’t have them, and none of my grizzled, dusty friends on booksellers’ row had copies, either. And after a while, I stopped looking and moved on to other things.

A couple of days ago, we were doing some Christmas shopping, and Ellie had been asking me what I might want for Christmas. I was thinking about books I wanted, and for some reason The Straw Men popped into my mind again. And then, within seconds, there was The Upright Man, sitting in a discount bin in a department store, $4.99 Canadian.

I opened it today and started reading. It’s a terrific novel, every bit as frightening as its predecessor, and I’m glad I found it. I’ll read more of Marshall’s stuff, his thrillers and the science fiction he writes under his full name, Michael Marshall Smith.

To cap off all this synchronicity, I just took a break from the book, logged onto the Internet, and learned via Variety that a movie of The Straw Men is in the early stages. Makes sense to me; these books would translate well to the big screen.

This is all too wild to be coincidence. I guess I was meant to read these books. And so were you.


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