Sonntag, 24. Juni 2012

Frankenstein Horror Series:
by Harris Moore
 1972 Popular Library
                                               My copy.

Hey Folks,
   For a change of pace I’ve decided to cover a novel this week instead of an anthology.
The Marrow Eaters” was the only book in the “Frankenstein Horror Series” that I ever read back then. I bought it when I was still in the 5th grade at “Johnny Clem Elementary School” in “Newark Ohio”. I could remember absolutely nothing about the book aside from the basic premise. The naked lady on the cover who’s sadly covering her breasts is the only thing about it that I didn’t forget. I’ve also never forgotten the grief I received over the cover from my mother and a few teachers. I know that I sure as hell found it fascinating back then. So come on honey, put you arms down finally! I’ve only been waiting for 40 years!

Here’s the quote from the back cover.

     “THE FRANKENSTEIN HORROR SERIES is a group of entirely new stories that follows the fates of the primal monsters and their heirs, as they re-emerge from the Pit of the Unknown, and Unspeakable and the Undead.”

(Is that even grammatically correct using “and” two times in a list?)

     There were 8 novels in this series from the very early 70s. As I said, this was the only one I read, even though I know own 3 of them. And as I couldn’t really remember anything about the book I decided that I needed to reread it, which I did this past week. And to be honest, even though I enjoyed it, I can now understand why I didn’t remember anything about it.
It was a quick, fun read that was for good or bad decidedly uninspired B-level Pulp writing. To be fair though, I’m guessing though that this was the purpose of the series. My on-line research shows that this is the 2nd of only two books written by Mr. “Harris Moore”.

And now to the Story:

As pulp fiction the “Marrow Eaters” is okay, but badly needs that extra dose of insanity that makes this kind of stuff stand out and be memorable. It reads like a novelization of a low budget 1950s “monster (guy in a suit) on the rampage” film. Think of the film “The Revenge of the Creature”, but where the Creature is a blood  thirsty murderer. The cast of characters includes:

Dr. Richard Fisher: Atomic Scientist (Atom Bomb builder) and all around criminally negligent secretive asshole.

Dr. Ken Bryan: Jr. Atomic Scientist, son-in-law of Dr. Fisher and just as criminally negligent                   as his father-in-law.

Janet Byran: Clueless victim and wife and daughter of the two dummies above.

Sheriff Brody Wicker: The poor man’s “Slim Pickens”. The local, cigar chewing, overweight, baby faced and dedicated lawman.

Joe Eagle: Stereotypical and very old Native American who seems to be the only one who actually knows what’s going on and is of course immediately dismissed by the players and is only considered to be “local color” for the tourists

Marrow Eater: 100s of millions of year old mutant freak wiseman with bad eating habits and titular monster.

. Our 2 scientists, Drs. Fisher and Bryan, have picked themselves out a piece of desert above an underground cave system as the ideal location for their subterranean A-bomb test. Old Joe Eagle keeps trying to warn them of because his tribe had ancient legends saying the area is cursed! Of course old Joe gets ignored by everyone involved. Dr Bryan’s wife “Janet” is visiting and   staying at a local hotel waiting for her husband and father.  Sadly Janet seems to be having a breakdown being caused by a series of vivid nightmare concerning the caves under the test site. He husband’s response is nothing more than “don’t worry you pretty little head”! Coincidently these dreams/visions seem to have started when her husband gave her a necklace made from a “mysterious gemstone” (that seems to emit warmth and throb) that Dr. Ken found on the test site when he was scouting it out as a possible test site on a previous visit. So we now have enough foreshadowing to realize that things can only go wrong.
Okay, and to be fair, the cover showing Janet with a glowing gem clutched to her naked breasts while a monster stands in the background  kind of gives this away also.

     The Bomb test turns out to be a huge success and once Dr. Ken explores the explosion site everyone will be able to return to the big city and go on with their glamorous scientific lives. This is at least what the think at the beginning of the book.  Ken of course, discovers a “book” made of unknown material while exploring the underground cave that also appears to be artificial and not natural. Janet, at the same, time is having nightmares of something emerging from a subterranean grave to come and get her. Ken shows the book to Dr. Fisher and like all good men of science, they decide to keep this discovery a secret from everyone else until they can decipher the contents of the “book”.  This turns out to not be the best of ideas. After Ken had left the caves a “coffin” in a side chamber opens up and release a monster that had be sleeping with in. It turns out, thanks to Dr. Fisher’s amazingly impossible translation, that 100s of millions of years ago there was an advanced god like race of humanoid giants on the earth. Unfortunately they were all struck down be a strange virus that deformed them and caused them to only be able to nourish themselves on human bone marrow!!  You have to be asking yourself how Dr. Fisher could translate a language that disappeared before humanity even evolved and secondly, where did these monsters find human bone marrow all of those millions of years ago?  When it appeared that their race was doomed, the 12 wisest among them  used telepathic powers to force the remaining members of their dying race to place the 12 wise men  in suspended animation and then bury them around the globe  in stone coffins . These 12 wise men figured that they could be awoken when a cure was found. They were kept alive in suspended animation by 12 “power crystals” that were for some unexplained reason not placed in the coffins, but just in their vicinity.  I guess that you’ve now realized the significance of Janet’s “necklace”. Our wise man wakes up with a few problems. He’s a deformed monster 3 times bigger than a normal human who lives off of bone marrow and has even more deformities and brain damage thanks to the radiation exposure he received from the bomb test. He also need his crystal in order to heal and to continue living.
      Our “Marrow Eater” is psychically bound to his “power crystal/gemstone” and has to go to it in order to survive.  The “Marrow Eater” starts making his way across the desert to where Janet is. Janet, poor thing, develops a psychic bond to the monster and just keeps getting battier and battier until they have to lock her up for “observation”. While Janet is going nuts no one listens to hers or old Joes warning that a horror is approaching. Mangled marrowless bodies start piling up across the desert. Out 2 scientists have sort of figured everything out and keep it to them selves. In great “bad-scientist” manner, Dr. Fisher dies while trying to communicate with poor misunderstood monster. Pretty soon the entire desert is piling up with corpses and the Sheriffs department is so overwhelmed that even the National Guard gets called out. So the next 100 pages or so is basically lone and paired searchers getting picked off and eaten by the monster as he makes his way to Janet.
      The book only takes off at the last 30 pages or so when the Marrow Eater finally reaches the town where Janet has been hospitalized. Once his goal is in sight he becomes Satan’s own Energizer Bunny and an unstoppable force of nature. The Monster is in such a hurry to get to Janet the he refuses to waver from his path one inch. So he just literally goes through houses, trucks, businesses, unfortunate bystanders and walls in a perfectly straight line to reach his goal.  He only slows down enough to carry off a few victims to use as snacks on the way. This is finally where the book reaches such gonzo levels of zaniness that it actually becomes quite good. I wish that the entire book was this crazy. I hate to say it, but even though the gore is kept at satisfying levels, the book is so dumb that some sleazy sex scenes would have actually helped it.

The writing is adequate, but the story is so predictable and by the numbers that I’ll probably forget reading it with the next year. What a bummer. I think that Mr. Morris tried to write a serious book instead of a silly pulp novel and ended up delivering a mediocre demi-pulp story. One of the other books I have from this series is a Werewolf novel written by “Frank Belknap Long! I’m hoping that Mr. Long’s novel is much better. At least he understood what pulp-fiction was all about. I wanted to enjoy this one so very very much. It has a world class cover that simply fails to deliver on the insane premise. :-(

And since I don’t want to end on a negative note I want to share a few scans that I finally found on-line.

These are the original paperback ads that were appearing in “Famous Monsters ofFilmland”!!! “Warren Publishing” had their own in-house mail order company that sold tons of horror related items. The coolest, for me at least, were all of the amazing horror paperbacks that they sold. I ordered lots of these and believe me, when you’re only 11 years old “6-8 weeks delivery time” is an eternity! This was good example of “the anticipation of pleasure can be greater than the pleasure itself”.

 So check them out and enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by and take care.

                                         1972 ads.

                                               1977 or so.

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