Tag Archives: island

Darker Hues with P.B. Kane’s The Rainbow Man

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Due to my personal life getting extremely busy of late, I’ve fallen far behind my typical reviewing pace — while the queue of titles to review has continued to grow.  In the hope of trying to do some catch-up, I’m going to try to write more concise reviews for at least the next couple months…hopefully without sacrificing too much in the way of opinion and analysis.  With that goal in mind… let’s get going…

I’ve reviewed a couple of Paul Kane’s titles in the past — Sleeper(s) and Pain Cages — and now he’s back with a YA thriller under the thinly-veiled pseudonym P.B. Kane, published by Rocket Ride Books.  At a high level, it’s a tale of an interloper who manages to keep his true nature hidden from all but a single, strangely perceptive teenager.

Fifteen-year-old Daniel Roush is that teenager, a kid at a tough spot in his life, with a deceased father, a mother who’s a little too fond of the bottle sometimes, a little brother who’s always trying to tag along, and a male friend (Greg) who shares with Daniel a crush on their mutual female friend, Jill.  Feeling somewhat trapped, and often bored to tears, on the secluded island of Shorepoint, Daniel’s world is turned upside when an amnesiac man apparently washes up on shore.  The stranger — who is given the temporary name of John Dee — is able to assert a subtle but powerful control over seemingly everyone on the island except Daniel. Unable to convince others of what he perceives about Dee, Daniel finds himself more alone than ever as the fate of the island hangs in the balance.

The Rainbow Man is a quick read at 162 pages, but even at that length, the story seems to drag a bit at times.  I’d attribute that primarily to the YA target demographic, which typically yields a tamer plot, as seems to be the case here.  The narrative and the language used seem quite basic, but not to the point of simplicity.  Kane’s initial foray into the YA field is a solid read for that age group, but perhaps not too engaging for adult readers.

Shedding a little light on H.B. Gregory’s Dark Sanctuary

You know you’re getting old when you don’t remember that you’ve already reviewed a book. That’s exactly what happened to me recently, when I requested a review copy of H.B. Gregory’s Dark Sanctuary from Dancing Tuatara Press, an imprint of Ramble House. Fortunately, as soon as I started reading the novel, I realized I’d already read, and reviewed, it. After a little sleuthing work, I was able to dig up my review of the earlier Midnight House edition of the book, which had appeared in Cemetery Dance #36. Whereas the Midnight House edition was a limited edition $40 hardcover, the Dancing Tuatara version is available as a $20 print-on-demand trade paperback, a $35 hardcover, or a $6 ebook.  Dancing Tuatara specializes in reprints from the pulp era, and has now published more than forty titles, so if you’re a fan of pulp fiction, you owe it to yourself to check out the Tuatara titles.  Now, without further ado, I present to you a reprint of my review of Dark Sanctuary–

 

No review of Dark Sanctuary would be complete without relating its storied history with a certain crowd of book dealers and collectors. As Dwayne Olson relates in his entertaining introduction, this book was included on Karl Wagner’s famous (infamous?) lists of “Best Supernatural Books” which appeared in Twilight Zone magazine in the early ‘80s. As Olson says, Wagner’s lists comprised about one-third readily available titles, one-third mildly-hard-to-obtain titles, and one-third fabulous rarities. Dark Sanctuary falls in the latter category, or at least it has until now. (Note: the Dancing Tuatara edition adds a second introduction, by John Pelan, that is also very interesting.)

But outside of its scarcity, what of Dark Sanctuary? About three-quarters of the way through, author Gregory provides a nice synopsis of the book, via the following monologue from protagonist Tony Lovell:

“My life was empty, meaningless,” he said; “I realized that when my father died. And the awful responsibility of Kestrel was more than I could bear alone. I turned to Nicholas Gaunt, and he offered me knowledge and power whereby I could rid the world of that horrid thing forever. More than that, he offered me a new philosophy which would show me the meaning of everything, and give me something definite to live for.”

Lovell is a 1930s version of the bored rich kid, and he has recently inherited the desolate castle of Kestrel, located on a barren, foreboding island off the cold, rocky shores of Cornwall. The “horrid thing” he refers to above is an ancient family curse that has plagued the family for generations, but apparently only when each generation’s male heir approaches the end of their life. Lovell’s father, Anthony, Sr., has recently died from a stroke arising from a horrible fright. Tony meanwhile has previously avoided the island like the plague, preferring the pleasures of London, but once his father dies, he finds himself strangely drawn to life on the island.

Seeking to first aid his ailing father before his death, and later to rid the family of the curse, Tony enlists the aid of a “psychotherapist,” Dr. Gaunt, who ventures to Kestrel and begins wielding his influence over the island’s inhabitants. Concerned about his friend’s state of being, Tony’s London-based friend John Hamilton also joins the party, and Valerie Bennett, a rector’s daughter from the coastal town of Pentock, is intertwined in the plot as well.

Given that it was first published more than 75 years ago, Dark Sanctuary holds up very well. Events unfold a bit slowly at first, but there’s a palpable sense of evil in the island setting, and Gregory builds the tension nicely. Collectors and fans of pre-war fiction alike should rejoice that this book is at last available to a wider audience.