Friday, October 21, 2011
FFB: Séance - Mark McShane
Published in the UK under the more familiar name it shares with a cultish movie adaptation, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, McShane’s insidious blend of the supernatural with the suspense thriller is one of the most unique and under-appreciated books of the 1960s. If you have seen the film you do not know the book. The film version (now reviewed in comparison to the novel here) takes great liberties with the story and completely alters Myra’s motive and her character as well as that of her hapless and easily manipulated husband. I think the book is much more successful in how it tells the story of a crime that goes terribly wrong.
Bill, her husband, is devoted to Myra. She has manipulated him into believing "the Plan" will turn their life around. She will fulfill her dream and he will have helped her realize her goal. True happiness can only follow, right? When Myra brazenly takes a meeting with the parents of the kidnapped girl and delivers a series of cryptic messages the susceptible mother slowly begins to believe in Myra's powers. The girls' father and the police think otherwise. This is a well controlled, tightly plotted story of suspense with the reader in on every aspect of "the Plan" yet never expecting some of the shocks McShane has in store.
Is Myra a genuine psychic, can she contact the dead? Or is she just another fraud? Myra will tell you that her gift is genuine and that "the Plan" is merely a little push she needs to make her the only psychic in town worth visiting. McShane presents her as someone who truly believes she has a paranormal power but we can only be as skeptical as the police are about her so-called power when she resorts to such an elaborate and illegal scheme to be noticed. She comes off a little batty, but not nearly as demented as the character portrayed by Kim Stanley in the film. The major difference between the book and the film adaptation, however, is that McShane’s Myra surprises herself and the reader with one of her séances when she makes contact with a genuine spirit. Even Bill is frightened. And "the Plan" seems to be veering out of their control and taking on a life of its own. Has she finally tapped into her true gift? Myra may get exactly what she wishes but at a terrible price.
Yes, it's yet another post for the R.I.P. VI Challenge. Make sure you click on the link and visit that page for over 500 posts on other books in the "literature of peril" which according to Carl's rules encompasses crime, mystery, horror and suspense fiction.