Home - The Last Page Bookshop - The Horror Reviews Mail Hal C F Astell - Site Map

A Beastly Business

Novel by John Blackburn (England) 1982.

Bill Easter, the hero, is an unscrupulous but somehow likeable criminal with a colourful history, who has run into an overdraft at his local bank. Thus the bank manager, Allan Smeaton, is able to hire his services in disposing of a body presently occupying his basement. The body turns out to belong to one Henry Oliver, alias Canon Oliver Hendricks, alias The Mad Vicar, a 25-stone mass murderer, covered with thick hair from head to foot and with an obsession for food. The job is accomplished easily enough, but Easter's interest is held by the contents of Oliver's desk, namely tantalising hints of a South American jewel-filled gold head worth a fortune and currently residing on the Scottish island of Rhona. Various other characters try to hire Bill Easter, kill him, or merely send him into danger for their own purposes, including J. Molden-Mott, famed and ego-driven author and explorer; and Major General Charles Kirk (retired), a former Chief of British Military Intelligence.

This is not a comedy novel (though it is written with a sharp sense of humour), rather it's a fast-paced romp through the various different facets of the horror genre. The plot is complicated, always surprising and delightfully over-the-top. The characters are also over-the-top, and prove to be some of the most memorable in the field: Bill Easter is a small-time crook and decorated assassin who can read Mediaeval Latin and quote from literature; his common common-law wife Peggy Tey, used to be a lady wrestler; and Oliver Hendricks is a classic. A Church of England priest related to Scottish nobility, he spent much of his time in South America as a left-wing revolutionary, became a werewolf somewhere up the Amazon and brought the disease back to Rhona where he unwittingly infected his family, before murdering people up and down the country under the guise of The Mad Vicar. John Blackburn's career began in 1958, and has continued in acclaimed fashion for thirty-plus years, mostly in the horror genre, but he has rarely been as enjoyable as this.


Home - The Last Page Bookshop - The Horror Reviews Mail Hal C F Astell - Site Map