Friday, January 2, 2009
The Other by Tom Tryon
So, on Christmas Eve, I discovered my Holy Grail of Books. For five years, the novel I had been searching for finally found its way into my hot little hands. All I had to do was wait. Thomas Tryon's influential and largely unknown horror novel, The Other, published in 1971, just before the big horror boom of the Seventies.
Set in 1935, in a quiet idyllic Connecticut town, this is the story of Niles and Holland Perry, two twin boys, up to boyish mischief and fun during a hot summer. Superficially, it's a story of one seemingly good twin and one seemingly bad twin, but if you scratch the surface, you'll see much darker things lurk.
I don't want to give away anything in this review. If there's a chance you can read it, I recommend doing so immediately. It's back in print, and available from the Chapters website. Here's the link.
Tryon was a moderately famous actor who appeared on some big shows and a couple big movies, and he left Hollywood, frustrated and unappeased and began working on The Other. This is his debut novel and it doesn't feel like it at all.
The lyrical but never sentimental prose builds a crescendo of creeping horror as details emerge and things are brought to light. Tryon's clear understanding of how the horror novel works helps create an almost perfect structure. The only problem I had was the prologue's mysterious narrator, who often "tells" instead of "shows".
The themes of duality and otherness are played with frequently, with numerous interesting motifs, and it builds a stronger, more unnerving sense of dread. This is a very very good novel.
As I said earlier, I don't want to give anything away, so I'm not really going into any detail about the plot. Suffice it to say that there will be plenty of surprises for even the modern reader. I couldn't believe how well this novel worked, considering its era (the Seventies), its setting (the Thirties) and its novice author. Everything stands together extremely well.
The Other is a fantastic horror novel that is criminally ignored by the reading audience. I strongly recommend this novel. So much, that I'm reading Tryon' second novel, Harvest Home, and his only other horror novel. I'm so happy that the novel lived up to the amazing hype and the build-up of five years before I could read it.