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The Manitou: A Telos Classic

by Graham Masterton

(Telos, £9.99, 205 pages, paperback, also available in hardback priced £30.00; first published 1975, this edition published 31 October 2002.)

Graham Masterton's debut novel is published by Telos Publishing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its first printing. Although over the years I've read a lot of Masterton's excellent work, I never got to read The Manitou, being always wary of horror novels as one who believes that the short story is the aptest literary form for any horrific or supernatural theme.

In 1978 the book also became a successful movie featuring Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg. I've never seen the film either, so I've approached the book with a very open mind.

The Manitou is a powerful tale which belongs to that particular subgenre called "magic", the story of the amazing reincarnation of an ancient Red Indian medicine man, malevolent and full of hate against the white men. Masterton's talent as a storyteller is already evident, although he's a much better writer than the one he appears to be in this first attempt as a novelist.

On the other hand, reading the book today and knowing that it was later turned into a movie, Masterton's foresight is surprising. The narrative style is in fact that of a movie script, vivid and clear, and there's no wonder that a Hollywood film director picked up the story rightaway. Incidentally, the 2002 Telos edition of the novel includes some beautiful illustrations which are nothing else but the pre-production drawings for the William Girdler film.

If you don't know the novel already, there's no reason to reveal the plot, which is, anyway, quite simple. Although, of course, 25 years later some details appear outdated and naive, on the whole the story still works and is a pleasant read for the horror fan.

Interestingly, the Telos edition includes both the original ending (to be found only in the first hardback edition) and the revised version written upon request of Masterton's US editor, where the ancient sorcery is defeated by modern technology.

Needless to say, the original version was much more clever and convincing: writers, when talented, know better, even in the case of a very successful product...

Review by Mario Guslandi

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