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The Manitou

Novel by Graham Masterton (Scotland) 1975.

After writing a couple of unpublished novels in his youth and producing a couple of sex manuals through the editorship of girlie mags Penthouse and Mayfair, Graham Masterton decided to turn to writing horror for a living: The Manitou was his first attempt. The book sold in the high hundreds of thousands, was turned into a film starring Tony Curtis by William Girdler, and set the author on a successful new career.

Karen Tandy is in hospital with a tumour on her neck, but it is baffling the medical experts: it not only moves, but grows and puts on the appearance of being a child. It turns out to be a three hundred year old Red Indian medicine man, Misquamacus by name, last seen in Lovecraft and Derleth's The Lurker at the Threshold. He is using her body for his rebirth, after escaping from the disease and mayhem caused by the early Dutch colonists of New York. Harry Erskine, a fake clairvoyant, enlists the help of a modern day (and vastly less powerful) Indian medicine man, to try to banish Misquamacus somewhere else - anywhere else - before he manages to unleash various vicious Indian spirits on the unsuspecting populace of New York.

Inspired by his girlfriend becoming pregnant and an old legend about Indian spirits which he had read in a Buffalo Bill Annual, this simply written and fast paced pulp novel still holds its power after over twenty years. It is similar in length and theme to most of his other novels up until 1981, including its first sequel, Revenge of the Manitou, and The Djinn, unrelated except for its chief character, Harry Erskine. The third manitou novel is Burial, which is handled in a very different way. The influence of this book can be easily seen in all of them. Masterton shows that he can handle characters, plots and concepts and proves it with the rest of his (far more polished) published work. Around thirty published horror novels, including two as Thomas Luke, in twenty years is prolific work for any author, but Masterton's are of a consistently high standard with few turkeys; and amazingly he still found the time to write many other non-genre books.

Apart from his horror work, Masterton is best known for his epic sagas, which include Empress, Lords of the Air, Rich, Railroad, Solitaire, Lady of Fortune, Maiden Voyage, Corroboree and Silver. His experience in editing girlie mags served him well for the sex manuals How to Make Love Six Nights a Week, How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed, How to Drive Your Woman Wild in Bed and Sex Secrets of the Other Women. He also wrote thrillers (often political): The Sweetman Curve, Famine, Ikon, Sacrifice, Condor and The Confession (the latter pair as Thomas Luke). He also edited the excellent Scare Care anthology, raising money from the horror genre for charity. For one of the most prolific, the most accomplished and the most read workers in our genre, this was the perfect start.

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