The Parasite, by Ramsey Campbell

In honor of Samhain Horror’s upcoming October launch, I thought it appropriate to honor one of the best horror authors alive, who just happens to have five titles in the launch, including THE SEVEN DAYS OF CAIN, which has never been published in the U.S. To buy CAIN or any of the other new Campbell ebooks, please visit the horror section at the Samhain Publishing website:

(I’m just learning WordPress, so please forgive the link error above!)

Back to The Parasite.

This book was really influential for me (as were about six or seven of Campbell’s others), and as always, my praise of him (or anyone else) comes with the caveat that I’m not on the same level. If he were an NBA point guard, I’d be one of those guys that stumbles around the floor once a week risking injury with all the other out-of-shape bastards. I couldn’t hold Ramsey Campbell‘s literary jockstrap. Actually, I wouldn’t want to. All that sweat…

Anyway, I read The Parasite back when I was in my early twenties, which was at least a decade before I knew a good piece of  writing from a flyblown pile of crap. Actually, I take that back. I knew good writing; I just didn’t know how to do it myself. At that age, I didn’t even attempt to write fiction and only talked about being a writer someday. My only forays into, you know, putting pen to paper, were ill-advised attempts at poetry. In fact, I’m shuddering as I type this. Let’s move on, shall we?

The point I’m meandering my way to is that Campbell’s writing really spoke to me. He always struck me as a prose stylist, which is a cheesy way of saying the dude knows how to use words to create an effect. He’s a very different artist than, say, well…anyone.

But The Parasite. Oh, The Parasite.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just speak to two aspects I loved.

1. The opening scene. It involves a Ouija board (You had me at hello) and a group of inquisitive (of course) youngsters. This prologuey piece of writing could serve any aspiring author as a how-to of suspense and cumulative effect (the fact that I even use that phrase, which is reminiscent of Poe, speaks volumes about Campbell’s skill). He’s a sneaky writer, but he never cheats. He simply scatters his magic dust and spellbinds the reader with words until THE TERRIBLE THING happens, and when it does in a Campbell tale, my goodness look out. For a further example of this, see his classic short story “The Companion,” which actually gave me nightmares. You’re a real bastard, you know that Mr. Campbell?

2. The second element of this novel that really stayed with me was its treatment of astral projection. For those of you who’ve heard about it, well, you already know. For those of you who haven’t heard of it…use Google. My point is that it’s a fascinating concept, and it’s used to stunning effect in this novel. Others have used it–Richard Matheson, for one; was it What Dreams May Come? I forget–but none as effectively as Campbell in The Parasite (and this from a huge Richard Matheson fan).

Read the book. You’ll love it. At later dates I’ll talk about The Doll Who Ate Its Mother (man, I wish I’d thought up that title), The Face That Must Die (my favorite Campbell), some of his other novels, and a couple of his short story collections. He deserves to be spoken about every day by every fan of horror. Unfortunately, I fear that readers under thirty might not know him as well as they should. Rectify that, Under-Thirty Readers. And please recycle. It’s the right thing to do.

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