Monday, July 17, 2017

A descent into thrills.

Cavern of the Damned

Russell James

Publisher: Severed Press

Pub. Date: May 22, 2017

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When I am reading certain books, usually of the horror adventure variety, I sometimes engage on a little fantasy game. I pretend I am a B movie producer considering this particular property to make as a film. I envision myself as a Roger Corman. A Samuel Z Arkoff. A William Castle with 21st century gimmicks. It can’t be any book. It has to be one that sends my imagination wheeling, that is a little cheesy but not too much so, and has lots of creative B movie type thrills and spills. Let’s not forget it has to have some really great monsters.

Cavern of the Damned by Russell James is one of those books.

It has a lot of things I love. Forbidding caves. Oversized monsters,. Creepy bad guy. A hot capable heroine and a somewhat ordinary nerd hero in peril (but the girl already has a guy. We can work on that in the screenplay). Basically it takes me back to the pulps that I loved as a kid and, of course, to those B-movies. It doesn’t hurt that Russell James is in his horror novel element and one hell of a writer.

In Cavern of the Damned we meet Grant Coleman, a laid off paleontologist wondering how he is going to meet next month’s rent. He is lured into a film project with a shady documentary maker that will take him to caves in Montana with pictographs of giant bats at the entrance. Park ranger McKinley Stinson follows the explosions caused when the film maker attempts to open the passageway into the cave and is about to arrest everyone when the entrance collapses and traps them inside. They must find a way out and that takes them deeper into uncharted underground territory filled with deadly monsters and complicated by doubling dealing bad guys. There are scares of both the creature and man-made variety and bets will be taken on who will survive. Then there is Mckinley’s hot lumberjack fiancĂ© who is determined to rescue her despite a killer blizzard raging outside. The thrills are plenty and the science is slight but not stretched to the point of silliness, well, some silliness. The monsters do really exist in caves but is a smaller pint-sized capacity. And the idea of North American Neanderthals? OK. That’s a real stretch but an author can have some fun as long as the reader has fun too.

I think Mr. James will forgive me if I say this is not literature with a capital L. This is pulp but really good pulp. It is the kind that induces thrills, stretches the imagination and makes you root for the good guys. It is the type of adventure pulp that makes me glad there are hints of a sequel. It is the kind of adventure that makes movies in your mind. Cavern of the Damned is one fun read. Let’s call it my recommended mid-summer read for the horror and adventure loving kid inside you.

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