RogerBW's Blog

The Devil of Echo Lake, Douglas Wynne 31 August 2018

2012 modern horror. Billy Moon is a goth rock idol, but he's starting to think his producer Trevor Rail might be the Devil. Isolated in a rural studio in upstate New York, he knows he's got to make his third hit record… if it kills him.

The thing that's really wrong with this is its predictability. For too much of the book, it's a cycle of something weird happening, and Billy (or Jake, the junior sound engineer who's the other viewpoint character) wondering whether there ain't some kinda Weird Shit going down. And then it all starts again, often with mentions of Robert Johnson.

That's interspersed with recording studio technicalities from the dying days of tape (the book's set in 1996, and Wynne had worked as an engineer before writing this), and everyone getting increasingly off-base. Rail is pushing everybody, Billy in particular, to be on edge in order to get the sound he wants, but is he orchestrating the spooky stuff too?

That's answered at about the three-quarters mark, and (alas that it's so late) that's when the book gets really good and starts to have the courage of its convictions. There's an obvious debt to Machen here, but Wynne has thought through the implications and possibilities, and woven the bits that fit together into a consistent mythology.

Female characters are distinctly lacking both in presence and in agency, which I suppose may be considered part of the nineties rock-and-roll mindset of the protagonists, though it's still a pity.

Not a game-changing book, but decently written even if the pace is slack at times.

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