Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Mark Morris
Published by Leisure Horror
It’s very rare that a book comes along that’s so well-written, so intelligent, so full of wit and insight, that upon finishing it I immediately want to push it into someone else’s hands and say “read this!”, but it happened when I finished Mark Morris’ The Immaculate.
From the onset I want to make sure this doesn’t become misunderstood; The Immaculate is not a perfect book. There are inherit flaws within that may bother you the way they bothered me, thought it’s doubtful. I’ve been reviewing books for a while now so I’m always overly critical of even the smallest of details, but Immaculate’s flaws are tiny in relation to the overall superiority Morris has with his writing style over many of his peers.
The Immaculate follows horror novelist Jack Stone, who lives in London and is still getting used to being considered a celebrity by his publisher and readership. He’s written a few books that have done really well, and nine months before the story begins he’s met Gail; the first girl he’s ever really felt he could spend the rest of his life with. Needless to say, as the story opens he’s feeling pretty good.
Jack’s got a dark past, however, and all of it stems from his hometown of Beckford. Tormented at a young age by a particularly vicious bully and a father who blames him for the death of his mother (she died while giving birth), the last thing he wants is anything to do with his hometown. When his aunt Georgina, the only blood relation who ever showed any caring for him, rings him one day to tell him that his father has died, however, he realizes that a big part of his life and his fear is now gone, and he heads home to face down the demons from his past. Unfortunately, those demons have their own plans for him, as well.
At its heart The Immaculate is hard to call a straightforward horror story. A lot of horrible things happened to Jack when he was young that traumatized him, and Morris’ description of these events is so vivid you feel like they’ve happening to you which is where much of the horror comes from. I would hesitate to even call it scary, though there are moments that are tense as all hell. The bottom line is that The Immaculate is just a damn good story, and it doesn’t need to fit into any particular genre for that honor. It just so happens that it’s a damn good story with a hint of the supernatural, and an ending you likely won’t see coming.
Morris is so in touch with his lead that at times you wonder how much of this story might be autobiographical. Of course, it’s an old trick by authors to feature authors as their main characters (Steve King used to do it with almost every other book), as it’s a “write what you know” scenario. But the skill that Morris possesses goes beyond just knowing how to write about another writer; he’s got a tap into the very soul of this character, making him come alive from the very first paragraph and giving the reader every reason to fear for his well being when things start going wrong.
A perfect example of this is Jack’s relationship with Gail. It’s so full of love while at the same time so realistic that you never doubt the validity of them as a couple for a second. Their conversations with one another are touching without being overtly sappy, and their exchange at times made me laugh out loud, it felt so true to life.
Morris definitely has a line into how his characters work and how a story is laid out most effectively, though I admit that the events which wrap up the book do seem a bit rushed. The reveal happens quickly, and thing get downright weird as it comes to a close, but to me it felt almost like Morris was trying to cram as much into the 342 pages, almost as if he had a space restriction. That’s really my only complaint with the story as a whole, though as I said there are some minor detail-oriented issues that are not even worth bringing up here.
Leisure sure is hit-or-miss as of late, and this month is a great example of that. The Immaculate is one of the best things they’ve released so far, whereas the other book out this month, >(Survivor (review) is easily the worst. I guess there’s something for all tastes, eh?
Don’t hesitate, just get this book and hope that it’s sales are enough to convince Leisure to bring Morris back for more in the near future.
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