Hell House by Richard Matheson is not about rush week at an infernal fraternity; it is about the investigation of the most haunted house in Maine—the eponymous Hell House! Dun-dun-Dunn!
WHY I PICKED IT UP:
I’m always on the lookout for horror novels that can actually scare me and this one was mentioned by Kevin Lucia as one that gets it right.
WHERE/WHY I STOPPED:
I read to the end of the sample which (correctly) ends just before the main characters step into the house itself. The beginning is a tiny bit slow, but Matheson had me hooked on the third page of the narrative at the line, “I want the answer in a week.”
NOW we’re talkin’! This is a very useful device for almost any plot—the clock is ticking and every page of the narrative moves us tangibly closer to the climax and the consequences of either success or failure.
Matheson makes the hook work by having his POV character balk at the idea, suggesting there’s a chance it can’t be done within the time frame, but putting him in a position where he has to accept.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER, IF ANYTHING:
Matheson wastes little time in getting to the plot, but that little he does waste irked me a bit, mostly because it is very tell-y where I feel it could be more show-y. A case in point is our POV character’s motivation for accepting a $100,000 fee for his services in hell house. Matheson only tells us that the money “could make all the difference in the world” for this character, but leaves it at that. I found this method of non-exposition rather clumsily telling where it could be showing.
We could all use a spare 100 grand, but the way the author TELLS us about it hints there’s something specific our character wants it for, but Matheson doesn’t wish the readers to know that yet.
I think the best way to fix this is to dial up the SHOW—let the character act out how much they want this money by trying to haggle over the week deadline, maybe smile nervously, fidget, become agitated, try to hide his glee—don’t just come out and TELL us without letting us know WHY… I found it a bit insulting.
Hell House’s minor flaws were tolerable for me and I plan to explore this book more thoroughly (when I’m not playing POKEMON Y, which is NEVER at this point)!
Whether or not it’s scary, I’ll have to follow up on.
Check it out for yourself and leave me a comment!