For this review we have to get in the time machine and go back to 1980 and take a look at Moondeath by Rick Hatula. Moondeath was Rick Hatula’s first novel and was originally released by Zebra books. From 1977 to 1994 Zebra books was a major publisher of horror novels, but as the horror boom of the 80’s died down, Zebra books died with it. So for several years you probably couldn’t find a copy of Moondeath until late 2011 when Evil Jester Press re-released Rick Hatula’s Moondeath.
Moondeath takes place in the picturesque little tourist town of Coon Falls New Hampshire and follows the story of divorced teacher Bob Wentworth. Bob is looking to make a fresh start and has just moved to town to take a job as a teacher. Bob meets an unhappily married woman named Lisa and starts a relationship and things look good for Bob.
Things change though when a car with a young man and a woman he was having an affair with, goes off of a bridge and into the river. To the people in town it looks like an accident but the young man was married to a woman named Julie and Julie has some dark secrets. After the accident people start dying on nights when the moon is full. The local sheriff and townspeople think there is a large dog or a wolf doing the killing, but Bob believes the deaths are the work of a werewolf.
Like Julie, Bob also has a dark secret and the townspeople are not willing to believe his story. The townspeople try to hide the fact that they have a werewolf problem but the bodies keep stacking up and secrets don’t stay buried forever. There is something evil in Coon Falls and there may not be a way to stop it.
If you read Moondeath remember that it is a product of the early 80’s because the story seems a little dated. For one thing there is a scene where a werewolf is terrorizing a man in a phone booth. Also the story reminded me a lot of the slasher movies that were so popular in the early 80’s. You have people dying off in a beautiful small town one by one and no one in town seems to worry about it, until the bodies really start to pile up.
Another thing that makes Moondeath a little dated is the lack of strong women characters. One of the villains in the story is a woman named Julie. She comes across as slutty and very one dimensional, I think if the story focused on her more and how she feels, it would have made the story better. The other main female character, Lisa comes across as hateable because she is married to an abusive alcoholic and does nothing about it even though she knows who her husband is cheating with. I also didn’t like how she wouldn’t believe what is going on in Coon Falls despite the evidence that is in front of her.
I can forgive Moondeath for having weak characters because in a lot of books and movies in the early 80’s, women were not presented as strong unlike today. My other complaints was that the book was a little slow moving and there was a couple unanswered questions that annoyed me.
That being said there was a quite a few things that I did like about Moondeath. Rick Hatula does a great job of using forshadowing. For instance when Bob and Lisa meet for the first time, you see Lisa playing with her wedding ring which tells you right away that this couple is going to be more then friends. Also there is a point after a fight between two boys in a high school takes place and after being beaten up, one of the boys stomps down the hallway, you know we haven’t seen the last of him. Another scene that I liked was one day when Bob is showing up at the high school he sees an ominous looking cloud passing over the school and he thinks that something evil is coming.
I loved how Rick Hatula describes the death scenes in the book and the parts where black magic is being performed. I also thought it was a nice touch how there we’re scenes in the church where what the preacher was saying was a metaphor for what was going on in the book. Lastly, I did like all of the male characters in the book but would have liked to have seen more from the villains point of view. All in all I did enjoy Moondeath and would recommend it to anyone who liked horror in the early 80’s.
Also recently I read a short story from Biting Dog Press called Search and Destroy by Nancy Collins. Search and Destroy follows vampire hunter Sonja Blue as she goes to investigate why homeless people are dying at an alarming rate outside a small town in Washington.
If your not familiar with Sonja Blue, she was created by Nancy Collins in 1989. Sonja has had 5 novels written about her and several short stories. Search and Destroy is the first new Sonja Blue adventure in 10 years.
Sonja was only 18 years old when she was raped and fed on by a vampire. She was left on the street to die but miraculously survived and became a living vampire. She now spends time hunting vampires, ogres and demons. Think Buffy but more powerful, funnier and a lot scarier.
My only problem with Search and Destroy is that I wish it was longer. Despite how short the story is, Nancy Collins does a great job of creating some characters that you quickly grow to like and she gives a good commentary on what its like to be an outcast from society. This is a fast paced story with a lot of action and is very well written, but I wanted more. Hopefully we will see more of Sonja Blue in the future.
I wouldn’t mind reading this story, especially since I have a passion for the ’70s which much of its pop culture fell into the early ’80s. Though I do agree with you on the weak female characters; it reflects a social-wide misogyny of the time regardless of the women’s lib movement. It would probably be very hard to do, but I’d actually try hunting down a vintage first print of the book since I collect vintage paper backs of early ’80s and back. Thanks for the review.
I looked, there are copies of the original zebra book on amazon. Also I’m glad you agreed on the weak female characters comment. Some people have brought up to me that the women in a lot of early slasher flicks end up being the hero. Which is true but the do a lot of crying and screaming before they are the hero.