WS1 Rerun: The Straw Men

May 27, 2010

This originally appeared in November 2008. I still recommend these books, although the film never happened. There is a comic book; it’s pretty good, if not my cup of black tea. The trilogy of books should be read by all horror or crime novel fans. They’re that good.

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.

UPDATE May 2010: I found Blood of Angels soon after writing this more than a year ago, and read it right away. It caps off the story nicely.


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