Guy N Smith, The Pluto Pact Reviews

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“First published back in 1982, Guy N Smith's pulp...”

★★★★☆

written by Dreadlocksmile on 31/05/2009

First published back in 1982, Guy N Smith's pulp horror novel 'The Pluto Pact' was released during the hey-day for the 'dark occult' genre of pulp horror novels when they were at their very peak. 'The Pluto Pact' was one of many such novels that cashed in on this current fad, delivering an eerie tale of an ancient curse, relived at the present time.

The novel begins back in 1595 where a Witchfinder rides into the Scottish village of Craiglowrie to execute the black magician Balzur. As Balzur is burning at the stake, he curses the Witchfinder and all of the people of Craiglowrie. The curse is a pact Balzur makes with the great god Pluto to send a fire to consume the people of Craiglowrie and all of their descendents. From that time onwards the people of Craiglowrie die terrible deaths, with a disease that spreads over their bodies in burning rashes. But always a few survived - enough to transmit the curse through the following centuries.

The tale leaps forward to the present day where Bob Coyle, the editor of the local rag the 'Craiglowrie Herald', has been attempting to warn the local people of the devastating dangers involved with the new nuclear waste reprocessing plant that is being built on the outskirts of the village. Coyle has dubbed the new construction 'Holocaust'.

Coyle's son Richard soon finds himself consumed with rage when his girlfriend discovers he's contracted a rather disgusting venereal disease. His rage is expelled on his girlfriend, Linda Lakin, in a brutal assault that leaves her dead. Such violence is far from Richard Coyle's normal reactions.

Richard Coyle isn't the only one to suddenly find himself unleashing a violent fit of rage upon a seemingly innocent victim. The local vagrant Rupert begins hearing a voice in his head telling him to kill. Rupert assigns this voice to that of a prophet and begins murdering randomly, whenever the voice commands him to. But the dead spirit of Balzur is less than generous even to those who serve him.

All of these sudden murders seem connected in some way and with his son now under a police investigation for murder, Coyle begins to suspect the legend of Balzur's curse might actually hold more weight than that of a simple myth. With the new nuclear waste processing plant's construction now fully underway and the first nuclear 'accident' already reported; Coyle's fears extend past that of just Craiglowrie and now out to the devastating effects that could be unleashed upon the whole world. What if Balzur's curse is actually real?

Drawing on the recent fad for the 'dark occult' style of novels, Smith has produced an intensive and deliberately eerie tale of mounting tension. With the obvious direction to where the plot is leading already firmly cemented in the storyline from the first couple of chapters, the suspense is nail biting throughout. Smith keeps the pace building in momentum, with the death count rising and an even more horrific twist always lurking behind the gory murders.

Smith's characters are rich and well developed, with a gritty realism portrayed to each one. The nuclear disaster is a hauntingly real prospect for the reader, keeping elements of the tale close to our current ecological fears.

With the storyline spiralling to epic proportions, humanity now on the very brink of utter annihilation from Balzur's curse, Smith draws the tale to its grand finale, knitting together all of the aspects of the plot to one final conclusion. Whether you deem the tale's ending as satisfying or not, it is what it is. It's certainly not the strongest part of the book, but does wrap it all up successfully.

All in all 'The Pluto Pact' is a harrowing and creepy tale that keeps up an intense pace from the very outset. With moments of harsh violence scattered throughout the storyline, Smith has delivered a dark tale mixing aspects of the occult with a potential ecological disaster on epic proportions.

A thoroughly enjoyable read packed with everything a pulp horror fan is after. The books runs for a total of 187 pages and was published through Hamlyn Paperbacks.

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