5 Days of Books: William Peter Blatty

I have a confession to make. It took me about thirty years to get around to reading The Exorcist. I know! Look, I love the movie, and class it as my favourite, other than Jaws, horror movies of all time. I saw it first on VHS during it’s banned era in the 1980s, and again at the cinema in the early 1990s, then subsequently on DVD/Blu Ray (complete with spider walk) about fifty times, but yes, I have never read the book. That changed about five years ago, and I have to say it’s one of the most explicit, beautiful and poetic books I’ve had the pleasure of delving in to. Blatty did a wonderful job in bringing life to the characters, and enriching the text with a deep, resonating cadence. Honestly, I can’t praise it enough, and have been searching for a “good condition” first edition for many years. The nearest I’ve gotten in a limited edition issued by Folio Society (seen in the photo below), which I believe has some wonderful illustrations. But as you can see, I have yet to extract the book from the shrink wrap so have added a stick photo from Folio to prove they exist. So yes, if you’re searching for a gift for me, then may I suggest a Harper & Row, 1971 edition with mint jacket and ideally signed by Blatty. 😉

On to Legion (photo shows a first edition hardback). I was more than uneasy turning the first page to Legion. Blatty has become something of an enigma to me. After finishing the book version of The Exorcist, I started to look up articles and watched YouTube clips of Blatty disseminating his Opus, and each one was a revelation. I visited the Ninth Configuration and enjoyed its absurdity and pathos. I even watched Exorcist 3 again after many years, looking between splayed fingers at that agonising scene where the camera lingers on the hospital corridor before a ghostly apparition chases a nurse from a doorway. All these things had built Blatty into a mythical creature capable of weaving dark into light, and evil into the subconscious. You can see now why reading this book wasn’t taken lightly. In the end I succumbed, but found quite early on its flaws too unforgiving. Kinderman’s existential rambling proved too distracting and nearly had me abandoning the book after the first few chapters. The quirky dialogue too proved tiresome, and yet I persevered because of legacy. I’m glad I did in the end. The second half of the book picks up pace. There is more plot that brings in old characters. It is, as was The Exorcist, a supernatural thriller. It was just a shame that this didn’t materialise until so very late in the novel. Nonetheless, there are layers to the narrative that make you think. The references are biblical and cultural. Kinderman, for all his faults, is a likeable character. But whether he could hold up the weight of a sequel to one of the most iconic and revered books of the 1970s is debatable. Worth reading, if only to feel the holy water burn your skin once more.

As for Dimeter (again, first edition hardback); I have yet to turn that first page. Maybe it’s because I know there’s not much left of Blatty’s work to pore over. So I’m saving this one for a rainy day. It’d be nice to read it in one sitting, and then finish the day with another viewing of that timeless story of Regan, Pazuzu and a priest’s quest to reaffirm his faith.

Published by craigwallwork

Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels, Bad People, The Sound of Loneliness, To Die Upon a Kiss, and the short story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole. His short stories have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and feature in many anthologies and magazines both in the U.K. and U.S. He currently lives in West Yorkshire.

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