Last week, I wrote my review of The Hidden, one of two novels I picked up at Barnes and Noble when I visited the store in September. The other book is No One Gets Out Alive. I didn’t know why I purchased the books—I blamed on spontaneity when I bought the books—but I decided that I’m going to use the novels to help me to reconnect to my readers.
Faithful follower of this blog will know that I suffered a stroke two years ago in November 2021, and since that time, I struggled with everything in life, but especially my writing. I said especially my writing because it was the issue that disturb me the most. All my life, I considered myself a writer, but after the stroke, I couldn’t write, or at least, I couldn’t write for long periods of time. And I was dissatisfied with everything I wrote. My mood became low spirits, depression, even despair. If I can’t write, what good am I for?
Early this year, I realized my writing challenges were related to the troubles I have in speech. I don’t know why I didn’t make the connection before—seem a natural connection now—but all I can say is, We’ll see how you do when you have a stroke! (Don’t have a stroke. I don’t recommend it.) In speech, I was having trouble competing unplanned thoughts. If I know what I was going to say, I said it without difficulty, but if I didn’t know what I was going it say, I start the sentence but never finish it. I knew the word I was hung up on, but for the life of me, I couldn’t pronounce it. I ended up stuttering. It made answer questions, a big part of my job, painful and shameful.
The solution is to force the answer out of my mouth. The solution with my writing is to keep writing. Work through the unplanned thoughts, the unfamiliar thoughts, the spontaneous thoughts. And my blog is where I’ll do this. I consider myself a fiction writer, and one day—I hope—I’ll return to writing fiction, but right now, I need to sate myself by writing blog posts. In the next few months, I’m going to focus on books reviews.
Stephanie’s eyes were open. She was lying on her back and could see nothing above. But inside the darkness was a voice, a muffled continuous voice surrounding her waking thoughts. Not a single word was loud and clear enough to be understood, but she was horribly certain the muttering could not be part of the dream because she was fully awake. There was no urgency to the voice, or particular emphasis, or even emotion; the tone suggested monotony, a monologue.
With that introduction, I am now ready to review No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill. Stephanie, a young woman “not yet twenty,” was making a go in life, but it was desperate and tough. Her father died a while ago, and her stepmother had a new man in her life and didn’t want Stephanie around. The stepmother kicked her out of the house. For a time, Stephanie lived with her boyfriend, Ryan, but that relationship ended. She moved to Birmingham and took a temporary job giving food samples out in a market, but that job ended, like the relationship. Needing a place to live, she moved into a room in a subdivided house for £40 a week. The problem was, her first night there, a ghost woke her.
It’s refreshing to have the protagonist recognize a haunting first thing. How many books that I read where characters recognized a haunting only on page 100, 200, or even at the climatic scene? Some books don’t even recognize the ghost at that time. Good books, no doubt, but it is nice not to waste time debating if there are ghosts. Stephanie made the right decision.
Her landlord, Knacker McGuire, had a different idea. Though she stayed only one night, he refused to refund her deposit money, and she needed the money for another place. He moved her into a different room, a better room, on the first floor, but that was only concession he made. (Being an English novel, the first floor is what Americans called the second floor.) Rather solved Stephanie problem, she encountered a different ghost. She continued with her plans to leave once payday come on Friday, but in the meantime, she was stuck.
Knacker was manipulative, but his cousin, Fergal, was vicious. Together, they ran the boarding house, which had only three tenants, and Stephanie realized the other two were prostitutes. She was staying in a brothel! And Knacker and Fergal had no intentions of let her go. They planned on turning her into a prostitute, a sex slave. Knacker wanted to do it with her cooperation, but Fergal was willing, even eager, to use intimidation and cruelty.
As The Hidden is a hybrid novel, a crime novel with a supernatural element, No One Gets Out Alive is also a hybrid story. It is a supernatural novel with a criminal subplot. Why do I rate one as a criminal thriller and the other as a ghost story? It might be based on the sections in the bookstore where I found them. I found No One Gets Out Alive in the horror section, but I found The Hidden filed with crime fiction. But I think it is more than that, that is based on the stories’ intentions. Look at the climatic scenes. The Hidden ended with a secular solution, but No One Gets Out Alive ended with a supernatural climax.
The manipulation and violence that Knacker and Fergal put Stephanie and the other girls through were horrible. I felt as if my skin was being peal for my back. I didn’t want to read it! I had to read it! It difficult to read, because I know things were happening in real life that just as bad, worst. Man hatred of woman is a theme of this story.
With the hybrid plot, we have two climaxes. The first happened relatively early, two-thirds through the book. The final third of the book deals with the supernatural element of the story. The section, entitled “Nine Days in Hell,” begins slow, so slow that I found myself asking, What was Nevill thinking? But I decided to trust him to make the story exciting again, and he didn’t disappoint.
Knacker crowded Stephanie against the front door. His face moved an inch of hers; his breath stank of the burger he’d stopped to buy in the street and gobble down like a dog. ‘Let’s get one fing straight, yeah? About that room you been living in at the cheap rate, yeah? Well your terms have changed. You now owe on the room. Forty guid a week for them fittings and fixtures? You must be having a laugh, girl, if you fink you can rip us off like that. You already owe us on the room. Yeah? Price is hundred a week.’
In Adam Nevill, I think, I found a new favorite writer. It is hard to say since I read only one novel of his, but what a novel! It’s viscous and cruel and sadistic, and other times I didn’t want to know what would happen on the next page, but it’s also infinitely exciting and tense.