Delacorte Press – 1973
Robert Marasco is best remembered for this horror novel. I enjoyed it. It’s about a family who get a deal on a summer home. The only catch is that it’s a vampire house. It’s not a house full of vampires; it is a vampire. I found the book very easy to read. I felt like I figured out what was going on a bit too early though, and there weren’t really any surprises. Reading through it, I became convinced that this had a big influence on Stephen King’s The Shining. (It has a whole big thing about the father losing his mind and turning violent against the family.) Turns out that King is indeed a big fan of the book.
This book is influential and pretty easy to read. Burnt Offerings not absolutely amazing, but it was good enough to convince me to read more Marasco.
Samuel French, Inc. – 1970
Child’s Play, originally titled The Dark, was written several years before Burnt Offerings. No, it doesn’t feature a doll named Chucky. It is the only play of Marasco’s that was ever produced. (He finished writing another one called Our Sally before he died, but the script has never been published as far as I can tell.) Child’s Play was well received though, and a movie version was made in 1972. Marasco was a teacher at the time he wrote this, and it shows.
The students of an all boys Catholic school start committing acts of brutal violence against each other. The consensus online seems to be that this violence is being caused by demonic possession, but this is never explicitly confirmed in the play. One boy is crucified in the school’s chapel and a teacher gets a sudden desire to self harm, so there might well be something satanic going on. I guess different productions of the play can give more or less emphasis to the potentially supernatural element here.
While all this is happening, two of the teachers are getting on eachother’s nerves. One is a strict, unpleasant man. The other is an amiable fellow who is loved by the students. This rivalry is what the play is really about, and if the supernatural element were to be replaced with drugs or gang conflict or some more typical school problem, the play could remain largely the same.
Reading a play isn’t ideal, but I can imagine Child’s Play working really well as a performance. It was fine.
Delacorte Press – 1979
This isn’t a horror novel. I guess it’s a thriller. I enjoyed it up until the end. I think Marasco was a pretty good writer, but I’m not sure about his books. He tells his stories well, but the stories are kinda dumb. As with Burnt Offerings, I felt like he gave away the big secret of the plot way too early.
I don’t think the above review is going to convince anyone to read the book, so I might as well summarize the plot for you. This is the story of a man who kills his girlfriends so he can have sex with his sister. Now that you know that, do you really want to read it?
I went all in on Marasco and read everything that he had published. I wasn’t really blown away with any of his books, but looking back, I have to admit that I enjoyed them all when I was reading them even if they don’t hold up to serious analysis. If you’re stuck for something to read, you could do a lot worse than one of Marasco’s novels. Not bad. Not great. Satisfactorily entertaining