BLOOD DREAMS by Jack MacLane
For a few years, mild English professor Bill Crider (writer of several mystery series, including the Sheriff Dan Rhodes books) had a very disturbed alter ego named Jack MacLane. From what I’ve been able to decipher, MacLane wrote five novels back in the old 1980s horror market, and these books were for the Zebra line, which was noted for its generous scattering of blood and guts.
I remember reading a couple of the MacLane books back in the day, and one of my brothers who is a horror aficionado still swears by those books. We were recently in an old book shop and he was positively gleeful to find an original copy of the book I just read: Blood Dreams.
At the time, I didn’t know Bill Crider had written those. Nor can I imagine what twisted cesspool he fished to come up with those tales. All I can say is that Crider/MacLane knew what he was doing back in those days of early splatterpunk horror.
This particular tale revolves around a demented hobbyist murderer named Hubert Carton as well as a ten year old boy named Larry who is haunted by dreams of death. Both of these characters have dark powers. Hubert is able to enter the minds of people he kills to relish their dying fear. Larry has the ability to predict death, but details – and even memory of the events – elude him. Only his mother and father knew about his ability, and his father couldn’t outwit his own violent demise when he knew it was coming.
The book is a frantic, whip-crack read that at first alternates between chapters concerning Hubert and Larry. I settled in easily for the read and enjoyed turning pages (electronically). There’s a definite time gap because the narrative picks up when Hubert is a young boy and follows him into his adulthood. Larry stays a ten year old boy, and most of his story is relayed through his mother and a couple other characters.
Upon Larry’s move to Willow Grove, the connection between Hubert and him manifests almost immediately, and you know at once what the main problem is going to be. The author doesn’t try to dance around the plate with his story, he just keeps delivering fastballs down the center of the strikezone to keep you hanging with the story. Oh, and there’s an occasional curveball that you have to look out for.
The East Texas setting of the novel manifests in several ways, not in the least of which are cottonmouths, gators, and lore that’s only whispered about in small towns. I loved the story about how the Willow Grove grew overnight, but I never did get to find out how much of that was true. I wish I did, because that troubles me a little, that not knowing.
Blood Dreams doesn’t offer deep characterization or any new slants on life in general, but it is a firecracker of a horror novel that presents the best kind of tale you’d find in any B movie. This is one of those books you read on a lazy evening beginning a long weekend where you can stay up late. And don’t mind performing the occasional peek over your shoulder.