|The novel sez Strangers got red auras...|
Technically, Mort Castle isn't a bad writer. Indeed, just from this brief exposure I'd rate him above beloved horror writers that include Richard Laymon and Douglas Clegg. But this is one of those horror novels that some people might confuse with splatterpunk given the violence. It isn't -- sociologically, it's about as reactionary a thing as one can find in the horror genre.
Bad things happen because a small percentage of people are Strangers -- bloodthirsty psychopaths who pretend to be normal people as they await The Time of the Strangers. While waiting, they account for pretty much all human atrocity in the world. Luckily, you can spot them by their Auras! Well, not luckily, because no one's going to do much of anything productive in this novel who isn't a Stranger. If you enjoy a pointless catalogue of atrocities and boring characters who are either monsters or victims, this is the novel for you. Not recommended.
Under the Lake (1987) by Stuart Woods: Jesus, what did Stuart Woods have on Stephen King, Pat Conroy, and Andrew Greeley to get the glowing back-cover quotes this novel received? Woods still writes, so far as I can tell, in the thriller genre. That's probably a good idea. Ostensibly a Southern Gothic ghost story, Under the Lake wanders off into ill-advised thriller territory when it should be developing its more gothic elements. Why pay off on atmosphere when you can have a couple of pitched gun battles and an exploding plane? Why indeed.
There are brief moments of interest here, but the horrific revelation towards the end lands with a dull thud. After all the perfunctory murders, seances, incest, and mopey drunk writers, this is all there is? An unpleasant bit in which a 12-year-old girl is presented as a sexy, sex-starved sexual predator really, really, really doesn't help things. Not at all. Not recommended.