Australian publisher, author and reviewer Lutz Barz has kindly sent me an advance review of 'Pestilence'
which he has recently undertaken and which will soon be published by Literature-Review.com and in other journals he writes for. 'Pestilence'
will be published in the near future by 4RV Publishing and this review is, to say the least, absolutely awesome and gives me great optimism for the book's future success. For more information on the book please see the website at www.freewebs.com/brianlporters-pestilence
Review of ‘Pestilence’
Brian Porter’s Pestilence is a classic. A story one glides into seamlessly. Many authors need to find their métier. Brian Porter has no such difficulties. The ease with which he engrosses the reader is immediate and compelling. A quick narration of the setting: the bucolic countryside of eastern England.
The scene is set, destiny weighs her hand upon a village fated to be drawn into a tragedy which, as the story progresses harbors a threat that could easily spiral out of control.
For `Every so often however, an event may take place that upsets and dislocates the unchanging equilibrium of even such idyllic locations.’ The first hint that calamitous events, broiling beneath the surface stalks the village with silent death. Destiny determines a set of unrelated events, which when combined with a chilling determination unleashes grief as well as despair. For a while all will seems hopeless. With terrifying prescience Brian Porter informs us that `What follows is the story of one such village, and of one such upheaval, and so we must take a short journey back in time to the year nineteen fifty eight, back to when it all began, to when death wore a new cloak, walked a new course, and the terror of a bygone age reached out to chill the hearts of those who crossed its path.’
Yet unlike other authors of the outré, we are reminded the fated village of Olney St Mary grows hops, a very worthy agricultural pursuit. Her people certainly know their priorities. Then a quick jaunt through the history of the place, for England is a land steeped in a miscellany of varied past times. Yet it is recent history, the desperate Battle of Britain that will reach out its weighted hand once more, a decade later, resurrecting one of the darkest secrets of that bloody era.
Memory serves the inhabitants well who remember, a Messerschmitt being shot down, crash landing, the pilot killed and buried with due honors. Ah, British fair play, magnanimity in victory, however small. Unfortunately this victory was to have dire consequences. `The dead couldn’t hurt them could they?’ Porter hints.
Watch out. Something malignant is awakening beneath the ancient soil as a horror gestates beneath the archaic charm of rustic life in the bright light of day. The war and rationing are over. Better times promise a better and brighter future for all. The people of Olney St Mary are content.
Until a child is sick. Then another, who dies.
The horror has begun, the invisible claws of a silent malignancy determined to cause havoc amongst the living, stirring, as yet undefined by a perplexed and newly arrived Dr. Hillary Newton. A woman! Mr Porter reminds us just how avant guarde a single woman doctor is in those staid villages, how it appeared to its naturally conservative inhabitants.
Mr Porter keeps the story moving along nicely. Nor is this mystery thriller solved by some two dimensional card board cut out or some stereotyped persona struggling in a one dimensional plot.
The enigma deepens. A second patient is moved to the general hospital in the next town. Our newly arrived village doctor will need the advice of her co-professionals. The symptoms appear as if it were the flu, which of course it is not. The reader will have guessed by now that some awful virus or bacteria is on the loose. Another standard plot line? Luckily not. This is not some cheap, indifferent cut and paste drama engineered for daytime television.
The pace becomes crisp. Yet there are snippets inserted which flesh out the characters. A line here, a sentence there, not whole paragraphs, illustrate the varied personalities of the protagonists, of which there are plenty who slowly are inserted into the story as the disease threatens to become a pandemic. A few people still remember the deadly influenza that had carried off so many after the Great War.
Bakelite telephones, those that have them, quaint English cars, memories of departed loved ones stir as the tragedy continues to unfold. Mr Porter broadens the plot into the labyrinth that is Whitehall, all the way up to the head boffin who throws a cordon sanitaire using military resources around the village.
They are now isolated without getting closer as to the cause of this rampant disease which is claiming more and more lives. Observant villagers note an absence of rodents. When some dead rats are found an autopsy reveals their lungs literally eaten away.
The plot thickens. Degree by incremental degree the story assumes more insidious aspects hinting at, as yet undefined possibilities.
`To the outside world, it was as if Olney St. Mary had been spirited away into a nether world, a place where sounds were muffled by the smog, and where the streets lay empty and deserted, a ghost village, inhabited by the dead and the dying’.
The epidemic now has the village in its fevered grip.
`The sound of the rain drumming on the roof of the hospital marquee became a symphony of sorrow for those incarcerated under the canvas. They might be dry under the tarpaulin covering, but they were all captives who couldn’t escape the nightmare thudding of the watery aerial cascade above their heads.’
Worse, the village pub, like all other public places is placed in a curfew. Yet common sense prevails if only for public morale and the pub opens for a few hours each day. Whilst the living get by, so does the disease.
Of course as the story develops the disease is identified. At this point too many similar stories would run their course. Yet the author burrows into convoluted politics, dealing with the horrific calamity which not just threatens this tucked away village but possibly the whole country. Feathers are ruffled as departmental domains are defended whilst those on the ground despair at the lack of progress. For what Mr Porter has in mind involves a dastardly plot hatched during the colossal struggle of World War 2.
Yet something is not quite right. The vector of the disease, how the authorities react creates in the readers mind further suspicions which point to something even more sinister.
And we are not disappointed.
`Pestilence’ is a multi layered plot at which the British truly excel. The characters, from the rustic villager, quaint old ladies, harried doctors, conniving officials, suspicious military types people the pages of this fast moving thriller. Porter’s economical use of language, the simplicity of words readily evoke both tumultuous and more benign moods. There is one hilarious scene as two entwined lovers fall for each other. The valve radio just happens to play songs which are so appropriate to the scene which through perspicacious attention Mr Porter portrays with aplomb.
The research is excellent, the imagery, the scenes are easily conjured for our minds to create a satisfying mystery. The reprehensible plot hatched by heinous minds is just a part of the mosaic where lives are promiscuously gambled with. Worse, lives become expendable as sinister and deviousness individuals would try and use the deaths of too many of the innocent for their own shady ends a decade after the Messerschmitt’s crash to realize their dark intent. Sinister forces are indeed festering malignantly in the background.
Lutz Barz is a reviewer, author and the proprietor of RS Publishing, New South Wales, (Australia).