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The Hoodoo Man

Novel by Steve Harris (England) 1992.

At the age of five, Danny Stafford is shot in the head by his elder brother. The bullet enters his cheek and ends up in the brain. Danny ought to be dead, but he pulls through with only one major problem, a small piece of bone has embedded itself in the pineal gland, a part of the brain which has no apparent purpose. But something seems to have awoken in his head and he starts seeing things in his mind which he knows are real. Danny recovers and grows up on the receiving end of various bad cards from an increasingly sadistic Lady Luck. Eventually he finds some happiness with Suzie Anderson, but the visions are back and he gradually realises that they are something to do with the future. As Suzie rejects his power and he is on the verge of committing suicide, an ailing psychic comes to his rescue. He proclaims Danny to be a powerful clairvoyant and begins his psychic training to pave the way for his destiny. But as Danny discovers more about his own powers, he becomes gradually more aware of another psychic who periodically gets inside his brain to wreak destruction on all around. Thus there are two Hoodoo Men and Danny can't seem to focus his powers on his own future once they meet in the flesh.

Steve Harris' best book to date continues his obsession with predestination. Both AdventureLand and Wulf dealt with powers beyond the control of the characters who possess them, characters who must follow their instincts to fulfil a destiny that has already been set. The Hoodoo Man takes this a step further, to the point where Danny Stafford can control (at least to a limited extent) his own destiny, and he can and will play God to improve the lives of others. What he can't do is play God to improve his own life: even when this works, it still causes tragedy. Both Harris' previous novels were borderline fantasy/horror in their scope, but this one focuses on more traditional elements in the horror genre, namely psychic powers. Harris' talent is in making his characters live and breathe - what happens to them, however way out it may be, is believable to the reader purely through Harris' talented prose. In this he is pretty much a parallel to Stephen King (though with a very English style as against King's very American one), but Harris is far more consistent in his plotting. King has produced some superb genre classics like Carrie, but his tendency to waffle and create a bit too much background means that his plots often suffer, like in The Dead Zone or The Tommyknockers. Harris' work is consistently good, with occasional forays into the superb, like this effort. It will be interesting to see if this trend still stands when he has a larger body of work behind him.

"A strange and powerful experience... very intense and disturbing" - Mark Morris


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