The Girl in the Basement

January 22, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

basementThe Girl in the Basement by Ray Garton

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I remember liking Ray Garton’s books. A lot. This would be back in the 1990s, when I was still branching out into the larger world of horror, reading writers other than Stephen King, long after the horror boom had gone bust. I also remember liking Marilyn Manson’s music a lot back then, too, but I’ve outgrown it.

To be fair, Garton does a good job with his characterization and his pacing. Once you get started on one of his stories, it’s easy to get caught up in it and not put it down until you’re finished. That was the case with Meds, read last year, and that’s also the case with The Girl in the Basement. Unfortunately, both of these books also have characters who don’t do sensible things; instead, they do what’s necessary to keep the plot moving along.

The plot of The Girl in the Basement involves (spoiler!) a girl who lives in the basement. She’s part of a foster home, and our main character is a new resident at said foster home. The girl in the basement isn’t seen, and what the other kids in the home know about her is through hearsay. What makes her special — and how that involves the other kids — is the core of the story.

Garton doesn’t approach this story with much subtlety. He makes things too clear and explains too much. It’s like he doesn’t trust his readers to make the connections on their own, since he doesn’t allow them to draw their own conclusions. He also puts a thinly-veiled version of himself into the story, as a horror author who lives next door. In Meds, Garton pierced the veil to share his opinions about prescription medications, and in The Girl in the Basement, he pierces it again to reveal himself as a bitter horror author, jealous of Stephen King’s success and disappointed with how the general public perceives him. The style feels immature, which is odd, since Garton has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.

The story here is entertaining, but it doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny. It’s not so bad that I wouldn’t read more of his work (it doesn’t have the rampant sexism of Richard Laymon, nor the pointless cruelty of Bentley Little), but it does give me pause. At the very least, Garton is a good storyteller, and for him to have been working for over 30 years, that counts for something.

Started: October 31, 2017
Finished: October 31, 2017

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