I heard Clay McLeod Chapman's Whisper Down the Lane is a satanic panic story from the eighties. The novel is from Quirk Books, who do nice, creatively packaged editions and are the home of one of my favorite current horror novelists: Grady Hendrix. I figured it was worth a shot.

In one sense Whisper Down the Lane is a disappointment. It is not really, as the cover suggests, a story of satanic teens. This novel is more of a study of hysteria, which is what nearly all the satanic panic stuff was all about anyway. Whisper Down the Lane also deals with devastating effects of long-buried guilt and trauma.

In a much bigger sense Whisper Down the Lane was no disappointment at all. I found it to be a riveting novel, swiftly paced, with hard subject matter. Reading it was an uncomfortable experience at times, but that didn't stop me from racing toward its conclusion in less than a day's time.

I looked into Chapman upon finishing this book, and his credentials are impressive. He has worked extensively in film, comics, and prose fiction. If Whisper Down the Lane is any indication of what I am to expect from further inquiries into his work, I have more superior horror fiction to look forward to. I plan to read The Remaking later on this summer.

I am compelled to bring up one point about Whisper Down the Lane. Parts of the novel take place in 1982. A character is singing Wham!'s execrable "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", a song that was released in 1984. A small complaint, perhaps, but it bugged me. Chapman should have done his research, yes, but it really should have been caught by the publisher. C'mon, Quirk editorial staff! How about a little professionalism here!

Written by Mark Sieber

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