OFF THE SHELF - "The Devil's Cat"

by Marcus Pan

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William W. Johnstone is a very unknown author who in the mid 80's jumped on the occult-laced horror bandwagon. He produced a number of books in his "Occult" group, among these The Devil's Kiss, The Devil's Heart, The Devil's Touch and yes, The Devil's Cat. This is the only one of the series that I have, and whether or not he continued along this path, maybe producing such novels as The Devil's Dog, The Devil's Dildo or maybe The Devil Strikes Back or whatever, I don't know and I really don't have the will to research it. 'Oh my,' you're saying right off the bat. 'Marcus is about to rip into this one, too.' And you might be right. But alas, dear reader, I might have something nice to say as we move along.

The idea of a possessed animal is nothing new. The idea of the great Satan d00d doing the possessing - well that's nothing new either. The hidden-occult-in-a-small-town idea is, again, nothing new and is SO not new it's practically cliché by now. Small towns are rife with secrets of course - from Cthulhu crapping on nightwalker's heads to werewolves and vampires living snugly and quietly in township basements. It's all been done before. But the problem with William W. Johnstone is not only his idea having been done before - HE'S done it before. About three times prior to this novel and I don't know how many more he might have pulled out of his rear-placed orifice to continue this series.

Here's the gist - Sam Balon and wife (family relation - a bit of Arkansas strife thrown in for good measure) Nydia are devil hunters. They chase down and wipe out covens that seek to worship, you guessed it, the big guy himself. And not the one you get to on the Up Escalator, either. Using his super-human Rambo-like capabilities (he was, of course, a special forces veteran - but you knew that already I'm sure) he travels the countryside and parks his financially rich and independent (well, of course, right?) arse in small towns and goes a-devil-huntin'.

The Devil's CatThe interesting thing about The Devil's Cat is that for any hardcore splatterpunk fan this is pure heaven. First off, it has EVERYTHING. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It's got your zombies, it's got your vampires, your werewolves, your were-other-things (cats mostly in this case, of course), you're devil worshipping fine-lookin hot mamas, your rising dead and your crazed animals. It's like Johnstone took every popular horror movie or novel, threw it into his food processor and made us a big fat health shake. GNC couldn't do any better than this.

Gore? Well sure - stakes through the heart, exploding heads, raped virgins, cat-scratch (fever?) victims, satanic rites and black magic and a WHOLE lot of black velvet-laced orgies. Anything you can want - it's in here. Is it any GOOD? Well, most splatterpunk isn't, so does it matter?

Well, ok, it's a novel, not a bad Walking Dead remake. So let's look at this. William's basic descriptory capabilities can be summed up by calling something evil. "The feeling…it pervaded the room…with…EVIL." I lost count on how many times he pulled that one. Everything's evil to William - eyes, nights, moons, fogs, people, feelings…hell, if I let a fart rip he'd tell me I smelled evil. With all the mish-mash of things bulked into The Devil's Cat, you'll also find it somewhat hard to follow. It jumps all over the place so you lose track of what's going on. He doesn't develop the characters well enough so when you move from scene to scene you spend three paragraphs trying to figure out who the hell is in the room. It's written like a bad high school sophomore creative writing experiment. And not one that passed the course, either.

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"The Devil's Cat" by William W. Johnstone
Published by Zebra Books (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
Copyright © 1987 by William W. Johnstone
ISBN: 0786010053

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