When I think of Don Robertson, Stephen King invariably comes to mind. King always cited Robertson, along with John D. McDonald and Richard Matheson, as his biggest influences. I would never have read Don Robertson if it weren't for King.

People are quick to draw comparisons of Thornton Wilder to 'Salem's Lot, but I see more Don Robertson in the novel. Castle Rock wouldn't be the place we all know and fear without Robertson's Paradise Falls. The humanity in King's writing, the earthiness, the humor, the intricacies of human life. It's all there in the work of Don Robertson.

My first Don Robertson was The Ideal, Genuine Man. I read a battered paperback when I was, I think, thirty-one years old. I was amazed by the novel. Now I've re-read the book. It's a very different experience now. The Ideal, Genuine Man will affect a sixty-one year old man much more than one half his age.

The Ideal, Genuine Man
is a deep look into the mind of Herman Marshall. Marshall is a typical Texas man from the mid twentieth Century. He drove a truck for years and years. He fought in the big war. Marshall has a wife, he loves Shiner beer, but it's all coming apart.

Herman Marshall's life is mostly behind him. He is old. His wife is slowly dying from cancer. His mind is filled with memories. Painful ones haunt him. Guilt and remorse plague his brain. There are sweet memories as well, but they bring him more unhappiness. All the good times are over. Now there's nothing left but hurt and a haunted mind.

Marshall killed men in the war, and he found he liked it. It was his duty, by God, and it never bothered him. He had numerous extramarital affairs, but what's a man to do when he is on the road all the time? He loves his wife, despite a humiliating confession she made. Their son died an agonizing death before he really even touched manhood.

Marshall washes all these and more memories down with endless bottles of Shiner. When his wife finally dies, the man is overcome with the futility of life and the indignity of old age.

The Ideal, Genuine Man
is a meditation on aging. The novel examines the life of a man. Not necessarily a good man, nor a bad one. Just a normal southern man with the usual prejudices and values. But Herman Marshall is also a powder keg with a rapidly burning fuse.

This is a sad, profane, reflective story of a fading life. Until the final pages, when The Ideal, Genuine Man turns into the kind of nightmare Jack Ketchum might have dreamed up.

You've probably read a lot of books, but I doubt you've ever read anything like The Ideal, Genuine Man. It's a stunning novel. Just ask Stephen King. He not only admires the book, it is one of the very few publications from King's own Philtrum Press.

I have to make a note on the language in The Ideal, Genuine Man. It could never be done by a major publisher today. Sensitivity editors would drop dead. Herman Marshall is a man of his time, and his thoughts and vernacular are of his era. He isn't even hateful about the words he uses. It's merely the way people thought and spoke then. Certainly it was wrong, but we can't change the way people were. Nor was Don Robertson a hateful man. You only have to read Praise the Human Season or the Morris Bird III trilogy to see the humanity in his work. He was unflinchingly honest in his portrayals of people.

That wouldn't bother us, would it? We're horror fans. We go to the crucible to face hard truths every time we pick up a book or watch a movie.

Written by Mark Sieber

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