Author: David Morrell
Publisher: CDS Books
Published: 2006 (paperback); originally published 2005
David Morrell wrote Rambo. He also wrote Desperate Measures. Two novels of suspense and action adapted to the silver screen. Neither included anything that could be inferred as supernatural in the storytelling. Yet, as I began to read Creepers, I got an eery sense of other worldliness as the tension wound up. As I read the book from cover to cover, I quickly realized the expectations of something other-worldly were all in my head and unwarranted. It's a Morrell story, for Christ's sake.
Cut me a little slack, however, as the setting for this novel is set almost entirely withing the confines of a condemned hotel along the Jersey shore, with enough creepy-crawly critters stirring within it's walls to put you on edge. The weird factor only amplifies as the rooms of the hotel are explored. But, who needs ghosts and goblins? Creepers sure didn't.
Frank Balenger is a middle-aged reporter looking for a story about urban exploration. "Creepers", or "infiltrators," are people who sneak their way into abandoned and cordoned off buildings. Morrell even cites a couple of websites as resources on this "hobby": www.infiltration.org and www.urbanexplorers.net.
On a chilled October night, Balenger meets covertly with Professor Conklin and his select group of grad students, as they prepare to go into the historic Paragon Hotel, which is due for demolition within a week. Together, they plan to explore--but not disturb--the hotel and document whatever they find.
Things go wrong very quickly once they're inside, and everyone realizes there is a lot more to the old hotel than originally reported. Morrell manages to keep us guessing the whole way through--as I mentioned earlier, I half-expected the hotel to be haunted.
We suspect the motives of each member of the expedition, and we become even more disturbed by the others at work within the darkened corridors of the hotel. I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I reveal the expedition is not alone. And they're being watched.
My suspension of disbelief was only interrupted on a couple of occasions, and thanks to the frantic pace of the story, they're forgivable. But, I must point out I had to shake my head when, not more than a couple of minutes after one of the party members falls into the abyss, the rest of the party goes right back to vocally admiring the architecture and design of the building and it's interior. What the what?
I did enjoy the book, and I certainly understand now why Morrell is heralded as a great storyteller by his peers and fans. I'm now on the look-out for the follow-up title to this novel, titled Scavenger. If you, like me, have held off on reading this or other Morrell novels because you're not such a big fan of the "Rambo" films, do like I did: Get over yourself and give the guy a chance.