7 in 7 (Day 7) — The Manitou


Graham Masterton has stated in interviews that he wrote The Manitou, his first novel, in a feverish five-day writing sprint.  Most times when authors rush through a rough draft, it shows in the final product.  Readers may not be able to tell when a novel was written in less than a month, but other writers certainly can.  I must admit, however, that The Manitou doesn’t feel hurried.  That’s a rare feat, indeed.

Anyone who’s read my books can attest that I’m a fan of world mythologies, and I often try to weave other cultures’ monsters and legends into my own stories.  Masterton has been doing this since the 1970s; frankly, no horror writer does it better.  The Manitou reads as a blend between Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

A woman named Karen Tandy consults her physician about a strange growth on the back of her neck.  When her doctors are stumped, she turns to the narrator, Harry Erskine, a pseudo-psychic who’s more adept at scamming old women out of their money than contacting the dead.  Harry eventually gets a “real” medium involved, and they realize the growth that’s quickly draining the life out of Karen is in fact a growing fetus.  More than that, it’s the reincarnation of a powerful Native American shaman named Misquamacus (“Gesundheit!”).  The Indian seeks revenge against the White Man and will stop at nothing to achieve victory.  Harry teams up with a contemporary shaman, Singing Rock, and the two men battle Misquamacus and the hellish creatures he summons, the Great Old Ones.

The book was turned into a fairly decent movie in 1978, starring Tony Curtis.  I saw it years ago, and by today’s standards it comes off a little hokey.  That’s to be expected.  In my opinion the book’s best sequence revolves around Misquamacus’ “birth” scene.  It’s a seriously disgusting highlight, and one that reminded me of Edward Lucas White’s classic short story, “Lukundoo.”

One glaring logical fallacy involves Misquamacus’ motives.  When he sees the first Dutch ships land on American shores in 1650, he’s so frightened by the White Man that he uses magic to send himself 300+ years into the future to exact his revenge.  He jumps from the seventeenth century straight to the twentieth, skipping over the whole eighteenth and nineteenth centuries — the time period when Native Americans really were conquered and oppressed.  How much more pissed would Misquamacus have been had he actually seen the Indians’ mistreatment?

Masterton is one of my favorite authors, and this novel is the one for which he’s best known.  He’s revisited the Manitou universe in several other books, most recently in Blind PanicThe Manitou is very entertaining, and lives up to the lofty reputation it enjoys.

My Rating:

This book is AWESOME

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