21 June 2013

Books: Lost Boy, Lost Girl by Peter Straub (2003)

Over the years, I’ve read a few Peter Straub books (Ghost Story, Shadowland, Floating Dragon and the two he wrote with Stephen King, The Talisman and The Black House). While he writes a lot of horror, I don’t think its traditional horror like what made Stephen King a household name. His novels have tendency to bit more gothic-like thrillers with supernatural overtones.  Plus he is a bit more florid with his prose, but not in a way that seems to imply any sort of negativity. It’s an interesting style, that’s all. His books are more about atmosphere, about unreliable narrators that include things that go bump in the night.

Now while I’ve been reading books since I was 13 or 14, I’ve remembered all of them. I’ve never re-read a book unintentionally (I was always amazed when working in the book business when I encountered a person returning a book because as they began reading it, they suddenly remembered that, yes, they had read it before). And it was only back in 2006 that I started keeping a full digital record of what I’ve read. For a while, I remember keeping a note book, but for the life of me, I’m not sure what I ever did with them.  

Anyways, the point is I thought I read Lost Boy, Lost Girl before, but that I simply forgotten about it. Which was strange, considering I never forgot what I read. As I began reading the book, I suddenly thought all of this seemed familiar; had I read this? So I racked my brain and came to the conclusion that it was possible to forget a book. But then again, I had just finished reading The Throat back in '03 or '04 and must’ve read a chapter of this book when it came out in hardcover, which is why I remember reading some passages.

But I will admit this is the first time I’m not clearly sure if I have. 

So I rattled on –if I read it before, well so what. 

Beginning in 1988, with his Vietnam novel Koko, Straub introduced us to Tim Underhill, a veteran who has become a successful novelist but continues to be haunted by the atrocities in ‘Nam and encounters with the supernatural. That book formed a sort of loose trilogy called the Blue Rose that included Mystery and the after-mentioned The Throat. While Underhill is mentioned in Mystery, he does not reappear until the third book. 

Tim returns in Lost Boy, Lost Girl and has him struggling to help his brother Philip and his nephew, Mark, cope with the recent suicide of Philip's wife, Nancy. As perplexing as her death is, Tim begins to realize that just before her death, Mark finally “noticed” the empty house that lies just behind his house –as if it wanted Mark to see it. That triggered an obsession with the fifteen year-old to discover the history of the house, only to learn that Nancy was somehow connected to its dark past. But when Mark disappears, it is first suspected that he fallen victim to a serial killer stalking Millhaven. But with no body, no one is sure what happened to him. Timothy and Philip must struggle to connect the threads of this mystery and find Mark before he falls victim to the horrors of the abandoned home; horrors both human and supernatural in nature.

Straub is a good writer and deserves a wider audience than he has. While some say he plays in the same sandbox that his long-time friend Stephen King does (and has stories set in and around the same area that also features Tom Pasmore, another recurring character) his style is certainly different. While King goes for the juggler, Straub takes a different route, one a bit slower, more deliberately paced. 

So in that way, he makes the same genre a little bit different, yet just as creepy.

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