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Dead End

Novel by Guy N Smith (England) 1996.

Guy Smith isn't having too much luck with the titles for his Stateside-only books for Zebra: Satan's Spawn became The Dark One, a much poorer title; and this was originally called The Ghetto which at least gives some atmosphere to the book. Driving instructor Max Frame ends up in hospital after a car crash, his girlfriend Shanifa doesn't survive. But soon after recovering, he sees Shanifa going into the Ghetto, a derelict zone traditionally regarded as a no-go area, which parents use to scare their children with: it's where you go when you've been bad, and you have to cope with the Downers, half-animals who serve as the requisite bogeymen. Everybody's heard the stories, nobody believes them. But when Frame goes looking for his dead girlfriend, he finds that the reality is worse than any story.

For an author who epitomised the 1980s 'nature strikes back' tale, and who has long been dismissed as languishing at the poorer quality, gore end of the genre, Guy Smith must have surprised a lot of people with this one. With little gore but plenty of suspense, this is a superbly dark satire on the yuppies and the class divisions of society, all in the framework of a relentless, claustrophobic horror novel. Smith creates an alternative world, situated in the ghetto of a small town, where the dead carry on what they did in life, isolated from the living. We are focused on a mayoral battle, between two corrupt politicians and the sadistic local executioner. Almost anything can happen, and every time we wonder what else can add to the tortuous tension, Smith delivers something new. Certainly not perfect, this is nevertheless the author's most innovative novel, and, along with the rest of his output for Zebra, it is worth the money for any horror fan, even those who wouldn't normally be seen dead picking up a Guy Smith book to read.


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