Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Book: Jack MacLane: Goodnight, Moom

I was lucky to find this almost ancient paperback from a junkyard sale at a comics book store here in Turku. Goodnight, Moom, published originally in 1989, is a cult item, cherished by few aficionados. And it deserves to be.

It's a sort of Frankenstein tale, set amongst the white trash of Texas. Victor Frankenstein of the book is Ed Leach, a car mechanic who abuses his wife and does nothing else but work at his garage and drink beer with his loser buddies. The monster of the book is his son, Harry, whom Ed throws against the wall when the kid is very small. Something happens to the baby and he grows up weird, not saying anything to anyone. He goes to school, but learns nothing. At one point, Harry tortures a kitten. Then he kills another child, a girl who's taken to liking him, since he's so quiet all the time. Ed decides to lock Harry up in the cellar. His mother, Harriette, takes care of the boy, but is afraid of him. And she should be... Harry breaks free and goes on a killing spree, repeating "moom" everytime full moon is up. Ed goes
after him, just like Victor Frankenstein does in Shelley's novel. It develops into a nasty mess, with Ed wanting to keep his son's misdeeds hidden.

Goodnight, Moom is a well-paced horror novel with a ghastly plot and ghastly details, but what's more important is that Jack MacLane can make Harry an interesting character, even though Harry can't speak and doesn't know any words for his strange emotions. You care for the sick, silent bastard. And you care for Harriette, his mother, and you even might care for Ed - you almost surely care for his loser buddies whom he takes with him to catch Harry.

Jack MacLane is really Bill Crider, the Texan writer, paperback collector and blogger. He used the pseudonym Jack MacLane in a string of horror books written for the now-defunct Zebra. The Texas landscape comes alive with many telling details about the wasted life of the small-town Texans. At times Crider goes into a tall-tale territory, like his friend Joe Lansdale also often does.

Goodnight, Moom is available as an e-book alongside the other Jack MacLanes Crider wrote.

One of the Jack MacLanes, Keepers of the Beast, was translated in Finnish in 1989 as Paholaisen opetuslapset in the short-lived horror series by the Viihdeviikarit publishers. There's a sheriff called Jay Reasoner in the book, but that's about all I remember from the book. Might be the time to reread it.

More Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here or at Todd Mason's blog here.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words, Juri.

Unknown said...

I should mention that I still love that cover.

jurinummelin said...

You're welcome, Bill! There's much to love in the cover.

James Reasoner said...

All the Jack MacLane books are excellent, but this is my favorite.

Mathew Paust said...

Perfect book to set aside for one night later this month.