By Hugh B. Cave
Ace Charter Books, New York, 1981
(out of print) paperback
By Hugh B. Cave
Tor Books, New York, 1990
ISBN # 0-812-51645-1 (paper) $3.95
Reviewed by Bob Corbett
These are the first two "horror" novels I've ever read, and, I must say, I enjoyed them immensely! However, they don't seem like horror stories. Hugh Cave, himself, views them more as mystery or suspense tales. Cave tells a great story! But, I didn't really read these works to read good stories, or to read horror, or mystery or suspense, I read them because they had something to do with Haiti, and especially Voodoo. I also read them because they were by my new found friend, Hugh Cave.
The experience of reading these books was as interesting, and odd, as reading the books themselves. Hugh Cave has written a superb non-fiction book on Haiti (HAITI: HIGHROAD TO ADVENTURE), and another excellent novel about Voodoo in Haiti (THE CROSS ON THE DRUM). In both books he treated Voodoo with great respect, acknowledging it as the dominant religion of Haiti and avoiding all the silly stereotypes that one too often reads in English language books about Haitian Voodoo. I wanted Hugh Cave to continue to respect Haiti, Haitians and their religion. Thus I was always conscious of my desires for Cave's books to be decent to Haiti, and to show proper respect for and accuracy about the culture. I went into each book skeptical. These were called horror novels. The recent horror film, The Serpent and the Rainbow, demonstrated what an attractive target Haiti is for horrible exaggeration which has nothing to do with Voodoo at all.
In his newest novel, THE LOWER DEEP, Cave gets the highest honors for his treatment of Haitian Voodoo and top compliments for a captivating story. I wouldn't regard it as horror as I understand the term, but sort of science fiction suspense.
The setting is not called Haiti, but the island of St. Joseph which Cave has used before as his fictional Haiti. A group of Americans have set up a hospital for wealthy foreign alcoholics in a small village on the north coast. Strange things begin to happen to staff and patients at the hospital, and to people in the local village. A Haitian physician from the village and an American doctor from the hospital team up with the local army officer and begin to investigate.
I won't tell more of the story. It is gripping and exciting. But, the reader needs to approach the story without prior knowledge of the plot and with a willing suspension of disbelief.
Most notable is Cave's treatment of both Haiti and Voodoo. Doctor Clermont, a local Haitian physician, is treated with respect and becomes the main figure in solving the mystery. This treatment is in such startling contrast to the typical racist stereotypes of Haitians in other popular novels of Haiti.
The ironic twist concerns Voodoo, which, far from being the source of the menacing evil is actually a foil to it.
Enough--this is a new Spring, 1990 release. Don't miss it!!!!!!!
THE EVIL is set in the north of Haiti. An American professor has set off to meet a powerful bokor (black magic houngan) to continue his studies of mental telepathy and other psychic phenomena. He disappears and his daughter and another younger professor (the romantic/sexual element seems to be a must in Cave's work) come looking for him.
THE EVIL is powerful. I simply couldn't put it down. (My son, Brian, grabbed it after me and read it in a single day, as I did.) But, once again, the story can't be told. The reader will enter into a world of mind control and a struggle of forces of evil and forces of goodness.
The evil one is the Haitian bokor. Yet Cave's treatment makes it clear that Margal, the bokor, is the exception; he is not typical of Haitian Voodoo and what he practices transcends this religion and has little to do with it. The majority of Haitian characters are quite believable and treated with typical Cave respect.
One theme dominates in both books. Cave explores the possibilities of mind control and the struggle of the individual to maintain his or her own individuality and freedom in the face of powerful forces of control. This is a rewarding theme in our time of media shaping of our lives. But, beware--the control exerted by the media is one thing. Cave's level of mind control is a whole different area.
THE EVIL is out of print and not an easy to find. I did finally find a copy through an out-of-print search company, but, oh my--was it expensive! Perhaps your local library will have this Hugh B. Cave novel.
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