Friday, August 18, 2023

Someone's Watching

Andrew Neiderman is a Paperbacks from Hell kinda guy. He was born in 1940 and became a best-selling novelist with his 19th career novel, The Devil's Advocate, which was later adapted into the 1997 film starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. Before that, he was writing horror paperbacks with covers featuring dolls, skeletons, haunted houses, and killer dogs. In total, he has authored nearly 50 novels, all of which are either horror or suspense. He was even able to temporarily ghostwrite under the name V.C. Andrews, which is like a legal ticket to print money. Needless to say, the guy is doing okay with the bank tellers. My only experience reading his stuff is a creepy looking 1983 horror paperback from Pocket Books called Someone's Watching

The book is set in a rural small town in northern New York and features two protagonists, 18-year old mechanic Marty and his step-sister, fifteen year-old high-schooler Judy. Immediately, your mind is going back to the mid-20th century sleaze paperbacks from Midwood that fixated on the 'ole brother-sister-swingding. Your mind isn't playing tricks on you, because sure enough Marty and Judy get to swingin' when Marty's alcoholic deadbeat father Frank marries Judy's gullible imbecile mother Elaine. One happy family.

So Frank is a drunk pervert 99% of the day, which makes it really uncomfortable for innocent Judy. After moving into Frank's house, Judy confides in nice guy Marty that she feels as if Frank is wanting to rape her. Marty, who knows his Dad is a total douche, sympathizes with Judy and promises to protect her in case Frank gets out of hand. With Elaine and Marty out of the house, it's just a matter of time before Frank gets randy. When Marty returns home, he catches Frank in the midst of raping Judy. Grabbing the closest blunt object to repel a rapist, Marty clunks Frank over the head. Hard. Frank hits the ground and Marty totally panics.

Like a good 1950s crime-noir tale, Marty refuses to see the logic of summoning the police to explain Judy's rape and ensuing scuffle. Instead, they do what any step-siblings in love do – they pack their bags and hit the fugitive highway to live and love. Here's where things get pretty darn creepy and horrifying in this vintage horror paperback. 

The duo decides the best place to hide is an old abandoned resort area in the Catskill Mountains. It's here that a sprawling hotel once thrived with a casino, baseball field, and deluxe swimming pool. But, decades ago the place went under financially and the bank repossessed it. Oddly, aside from dust, broken light fixtures, and black mold, most of the complex is still fully furnished and usable. Oh, and there's a homicidal mentally-disturbed person living in the attic. That's sort of the problem right there. The murderer.

Approximately 100 pages are spent on Judy and Marty exploring the old hotel and learning more about its history. The only other person besides the three of them (Judy, Marty, Killer) is an old man that owns the hotel. You see he is also mentally ill and living in the hotel thinking it is still thriving and filled with happy tourists. In his dementia, he doesn't know any other way besides continuing to work at the hotel and providing support for his imaginary workers and guests. This old man has a son-in-law (real guy) that randomly delivers food via the back door. 

While Neiderman spends a great deal of time on Marty and Judy, including some tepid sex scenes, most of the book is divided into perspectives of different characters. The first is obviously Marty and Judy, but the second, and most interesting, is the perspective of the deranged lunatic living in the building's attic space. This guy's identity is relatively unknown for most of the book, and his mental headspace is a perverted creepy wonderland. Think of being trapped in the mind of say...Norman Bates (Psycho). The narrative slowly builds to the inevitable confrontation, when all three parties eventually run into each other in the massive hotel. There's also another character that eventually ends up there too, but I won't spoil it for you here. 

Listen, this isn't the best horror or suspense novel you'll read. But, the idea of having an abandoned resort hotel as a sprawling “do what you want” wonderland is pretty darn amazing. The aspect of hotel exploration was really intriguing, and it compares to the more superior novel Creepers by David Morrell. When it wants to be creepy and psychologically enthralling, it is. Unfortunately, the old man's participation in the narrative was a real downer. The novel would have worked better with just the three characters. But, overall, this one is worth reading. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

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