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The Surrogate

Novel by Nick Sharman 1980.

As 'Nick Sharman', Scott Grønmark has turned in a varied but high quality selection of dodgy horror titles. Best of all is The Surrogate, an intense battle between three generations of one family. The middle and linking generation is Frank Tillson, a radio DJ, successful in his career and in his relationship with his only son, Simon. Since the death of his wife in a car accident, Frank has brought up Simon alone, almost as a full time job. Most of this attention is due to Frank's deep hate for his own father, who remains nameless throughout. Frank holds him responsible for driving his mother to suicide and has not spoken to him since leaving for good at the age of 16. Now his father is dying and he needs a new heir to his large fortune. He summons Frank, who is informed that Simon will be this new heir. Frank refuses and sets the stage for his father's return from the grave to claim Simon under any circumstances.

Far different from any other 'Sharman' novel, this has far less characters (who are accordingly fleshed out far more) than normal, a plot which is focussed but never obvious, and a sense of atmosphere which is second to none. It even got a cover quote from Stephen King: "It scared me� a winner!" It is not too difficult to see why King liked it. Though written in what King himself described in Danse Macabre as "that clear, lucid, grammatical prose that only those educated in England seem able to produce", it is very American in its style. It mixes the generation-spanning epic with the brash conflict of wills, and ties everything in to that icon most favoured by American horror writers, the child. There is something in the American psyche that sees children as the most innocent things on the planet, and anything or anybody who interferes with that innocence as the ultimate in horror. The British, on the other hand, are far more likely to shudder at a wave of rats hurtling at a well-defined character. All of which goes to show why this was published by New American Library before its English equivalent, why Stephen King liked it so much, and perhaps why 'Nick Sharman' never took off in this country to the extent that he should have done with superbly crafted, suspenseful and constantly surprising novels like this.


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