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Satan's Child

Novel by Peter Saxon (Scotland) 1967.

Being Scottish, Wilfred McNeilly was bound to use his home country as a setting for a Peter Saxon novel. Here, the place is Kinskerchan, a small farming village near Glasgow, and Elspet Malcolm is being dragged down the main road. Flogged in public by her husband, she is finally burned as a witch in front of her two children, thirteen-year old Iain and Morag, eleven. Not quite young enough to miss the evil injustices, they attack their mother's husband (not their father) and leave the village. After many years of study, ending in the Himalayas, Iain Malcolm finally becomes a master of the Left Hand Path, a path that he took in order to achieve the the power required to exact revenge on the men who murdered his mother. Now he can return to Scotland to fulfil his vow.

Wilfred McNeilly is an infuriatingly bad writer. 'Peter Saxon' wrote some excellent books such as Through the Dark Curtain, The Vampire of Finistere and The Disorientated Man, but none of these were by McNeilly. Instead, he churned out second-rate hack horrors like Dark Ways to Death, The Darkest Night and The Haunting of Alan Mais. Satan's Child lies somewhere between these two extremes.

A simple enough tale of filial revenge, it is enhanced by a pleasantly fluid style. Iain's methods of retribution are inventive and sometimes beautifully ironic. And there are some wonderful interludes to the action, where other Himalayan masters argue over the consequences of Iain's actions, which are capped by a clever, if not too surprising, twist at the end. Not essential by any means, but a decent and inventive success, for a writer noted chiefly for his lack of talent.

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