The Crone – Bill Garnett
Saint Martin’s Press – 1987 (First published 1984)
When I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had to read it. A mangy, ugly hag with a knife? Sign me up! The plot is as ridiculous as I’d hoped it would be.
Magda Janosi, an extremely ugly and deformed Hungarian woman, cuts a chunk of flesh out of her leg, moulds it into the shape of a small person and then baptizes it in the blood from a self inflicted and lethal tear in her jugular vein. This disgusting lump becomes sentient and starts burrowing into other bodies, eating their insides and animating their corpses to wreak vengeance on the man who wronged Magda’s daughter.
Magda is clearly a witch, but aside from a brief backstory of her getting raped, the origins of her dark powers are never revealed. That’s fine though. This isn’t the kind of book where you need things explained.
I don’t know anything about the author, and I’m not saying he was a sexist, but the protagonist of this novel definitely is. He rides his secretary, and when she falls for him, he breaks up with her by calling her a “pathetic whore” and threatening to “knock her shitless”. The way he thinks about his wife is pretty nasty too. All in all, he comes across as really horrible, and I think the reader is supposed to be half-rooting for his destruction, so maybe the book isn’t as mysogonistic as its main character. Then again, this novel is called “The Crone”, and as far as I know, crone literally means ugly old woman. So much emphasis is put on how physically unattractive Magda is, and her appearance has no real importance at all. She’s really wrecked though; even her own daughter can’t look at her. I’ve thought about this for a while, and I don’t really understand why it was so important for the reader to know how abhorrently hideous she was.
I though the build up of the story was the best part. Once the monster is ready to kill, the guy it’s trying to kill goes on a tour around the Middle East and North Africa. This allows the monster to attack in different ways, but the descriptions of each new city they visit made it feel a bit like the author was just trying to reach a page count.
Honestly, the whole book was very silly, but I found the story both fast paced and ridiculous enough to be thoroughly entertaining. This is pure trash, but I had a good time reading it.