Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fowler, Christopher: Hell Train

Possibly best known now for the excellent Bryant and May series of offbeat mysteries, Christopher Fowler's earlier novels were horror stories though again often somewhat offbeat. The novel under review returns to the horror genre with a tale of a devilish train in central Europe at the time of the First World War - with something of a change to the actual fighting. Of interest is the framing story which provides a sketch of the British horror film industry of the 60s at a time when the genre had all but run its course here - the bloody US revival was just starting and one of the contributory factors to the decline here (the stylish Italian horror productions are not mentioned). The chapters providing the suspense and horror are supposedly the screenplay being written against the clock by a visiting American who has used a board game for inspiration. The central story contains the standard types - a dashing young hero, a beautiful maiden, an offbeat expendable couple, a laconic and sinister chorus cum director of events and various horror elements, some usual, some not so much so. There are a number of very strking scenes though I did find the overall effect a little stretched. This is not meant to criticise too much as below par Fowler is superior to most other writers in the field of imaginative writing.

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