2. Walkers – Graham Masterton
Druids! Lunatics! Lunatics who think they are Druids because they harnessed the power of ley lines by reading about them while cooped up in an insane asylum versus a muffler shop owner – this book was not what I expected. I also did not expect it to be set between Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was wacky. And strangely vulgar in places. I now know things I did not want to know about fishnets. I can now visualize what it looks like to find a drowned two headed dog in a bag floating in a pool. Eek.
The main strength of this book can be found in the many, many descriptions of gross things and its full commitment to the wacky premise. The main weakness of this book is that the characters sound like British people imported into their setting when I’m supposed to believe they’re American. For example (and I’m currently reading another Masterton book set in the 1950s U.S. that bothers me for the same reasons) no one born in the U.S. has ever said “Hallo” (that’s just not our tone) to me in Wisconsin or referred to their trunk as a “boot.” A different kind of boots tend to take precedence in Wisconsin, especially during the freakishly cold, neverending winter that happened this year. Masterton is a British author and he has the same problem that was repeatedly brought up to me while finishing my MA in England – we use different words for things – it’s not a huge problem…but because of my experience, everything that didn’t ring true to U.S. custom stuck out like a pack of sore thumbs waiting to be scraped on concrete. I spent quite a few workshop sessions explaining what things like “twin beds” were or explaining how we can buy two liters but don’t regularly use the metric system and that hindered my ability to receive a critique that had something to do with my writing instead of my culture. Of course, I was there during the Iraq War and U.S.icans were not popular, and that put me at a disadvantage in more situations than I expected. I was also twenty-two, which seemed like a good secondary excuse for some people not to take me very seriously. One thing that I can take away from that experience and reading this is that translating cultural norms was not as important to the editors of this book as it was to my workshop and I, like many readers, would appreciate someone going the extra mile in terms of cultural research – I certainly would never confuse a biscuit with a cookie if I was writing a novel set in England and I’d put the spare tyre in the boot if need be. So, you can be as wacky with your premise as you like, but if your dialogue sounds wrong every time people meet, it’s going to hurt my ability to believe in homicidal maniacs having the ability to move through the walls and make that “Sssssssshhhhhhh” sound as described.