Banquet For The Damned review

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Dante and Tom are musicians, proper musicians mind, with guitars, hair and leather jackets, not some kind of plastic sham put together by the likes of Simon Cowell or reality TV. Consequently they are broke. Worse than that, Tom has shagged the drummer’s girlfriend and the band have fallen to pieces. Just as everything turns to shit Dante receives a lifeline.

For a long time Dante has cherished the idea of making a concept album based upon Banquet for the Damned, a book about magical beliefs by a Professor Eliot Coldwell an anthropologist at Scotland’s oldest University, St Andrews. Turns out Dante is just the sort of fellow Coldwell is looking for as a research assistant and the job comes with a grace and favour flat where the guys can work on their music.

However, it all comes at a price. American anthropologist Hart Miller has been interviewing students suffering from night terrors. These students have a nasty habit of not coming back for the follow up interview or ever being seen again, but all of them had been members of Eliot Coldwell’s paranormal society. So when Dante starts experiencing his own night terrors after snogging Beth, Coldwell’s gothy sidekick, we realise that some ancient evil is astir in the university town as fate throws Hart and Dante together in a fight for their lives.

This is a great old school chiller indebted, as the author freely admits, to MR James and other masters of the British Gothic. The university town of St Andrews is actually the ideal place for a James style romance having not just one of the oldest of the UK’s universities (only Oxford and Cambridge predate its foundation in 1410), but also a long beach and a golf course and Nevill makes full use of these locations for some spine tingling supernatural experiences. Experiences that are all the better for not being too graphic in the description of the unearthly entities at work, allowing the reader’s imagination to work overtime filling in the terrifying details.

Having spent a lot of time knocking about on the fringes of the music I recognise Dante and Tom and its great to see them treated sympathetically, sure they do some stupid things, but don’t we all?. The rest of the cast of academics, university administrators and students are also really well developed, from dusty Dons to bitchy secretaries, making Banquet of the Damned altogether a great spine chilling read.

I give it a 555 

Banquet for the Damned was first published in 2008 it will be reissued as a Pan paperback and Kindle download 13 March 2014. Find out more about Adam Nevill at A Scarecrow Screams.

If, like me, you enjoy a bit of raucous noise with your scares look out for:

Hard Rock Zombies (1985): A heavy metal band stop off at the hick town of Grand Guignol, populated largely by sex pervert Nazis led by a werewolf Adolf Hitler. Fortunately one of the band has taped the riff that reanimates the dead and it comes in handy when the band are murdered. Totally over the top mayhem ensues. Come on heavy metal, werewolves, zombies, Hitler what more could you ask for?

Return of the Living Dead (1985): A deadly gas escapes from a medical facility reanimates the dead, who naturally go on a brain eating rampage through Louisville Kentucky. This is generally regarded as the film that introduced the idea of zombies eating brains rather than just flesh. Genuinely funny it has a great soundrack featuring the Cramps, 45 Grave and Roky Erikson oh and Linnea Quigley getting naked in a graveyard too.

Review by Simon Ball

Connect with Simon: @RealShipsCook or here.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m not into this genre but your review has peaked my interest. 🙂

    1. Ship's Cook says:

      I liked it because the horror was subtle and understated leaving much to the imagination of the reader, much as past master like MR James, EF Benson and Oliver Onions did. It still has the odd gory moment, but its not a splatter fest!

      1. That’s what I like. Just because you have a box of 64 RED crayons, you don’t need to use them all. I like to use my imagination too.
        Thanks again for a great review.

  2. I loved this book, coming from St Andrews, this is not only a great supernatural story, it is also one of the best books that captures the feel of the town.

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