Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Blackwater serial novels, by Michael McDowell

(pb; 1983: six-part novel)

1.) Blackwater: I - The Flood

From the back cover:

"Elinor Dammert was rescued from her room in the flood-isolated hotel. What strange mission brought her there? How did she survive her isolation? Why was she in the Alabama town of Perdido that Easter morning in 1919?

"These questions would never be answered because larger and even more terrifying ones would be asked. She soon would become a strange presence in the wealthy Caskey family and their town. Horrors, virtually unspeakable and nearly indescribable, follow."



2.) Blackwater: II - The Levee

From the back cover:

"Elinor Dammert abandoned her first-born child in a bargain with Mary-Love Caskey of Perdido, Alabama, and set in motion a series of strange familial entanglements. Her goals: power, money, her way.

"In her way, she would begin to suck power from the weaknesses of the family she had entered through marriage. Her power would be felt again and again even if it meant murder -- or a horrifying ancient ritual death.

"Elinor Dammer must win."


3.) Blackwater: III - The House

From the back cover:

"The Depression came hard to most people in Perdido, Alabama, but the town's first family weathered the storm under the guidance of the indomitable Mary-Love Caskey and the increasing influence of her daughter-in-law, Elinor.

"Strange and malevolent were the ways of Elinor to those who stood in her way. Those she loved would prosper. Those she disliked would die hideously. No court could call it murder because her manner was not human."



4.) Blackwater: IV - The War

From the back cover:

"Wartime in Perdido jolted the sleepy little Alabama town as new people entered the community. Outsiders would invade the comfort of the wealthy Caskeys and take their daughters.

"This, though, was part of the master plan of Elinor Caskey, who would see the family flourish amidst the destruction and death she administered in a fashion more awesome than the war itself."



5.) Blackwater: V - The Fortune

From the back cover:

"Under Elinor's guidance, the Caskey family prospered after the war, not knowing that a dark infernal force was growing in their midst. And Frances, Elinor's favorite daughter, never understood her yearning for the Perdido River. . . until the day her babies were born.

"Elinor presided over the secret birth, the triumph of her life. And the blood red water of the Perdido continued to claim its own -- both humans and demons -- some in grisly death, some in exquisite surrender."


6.) Blackwater: VI - Rain

From the back cover:

"As the Caskey family and their town of Perdido rode the crest of prosperity in the '60s, matriarch Elinor had good reason to be proud of her domain. But slowly, silently, unimaginable horrors were creeping into their midst.

"At the height of revelry, at the peak of chaos, in the fearful silence of blackest night, preternatural horror pounced upon the Caskeys. But still Elinor reigned, until her solemn vow of death came true -- in the final hour."


Review:

Solid, character-rich narrative, spanning six decades, about the wealthy Caskey family, and a strange woman (Elinor Dammert) who marries into it. Over the course of six decades, through her quiet, smart and supernatural manipulations, Elinor furthers the family's social and financial positions.

The spookiness and horror, aside from a few gory brutal and brief instances, is more prevalent in the family's circumstances and increased wealth, and in the occasional disappearances of Perdido citizens -- often after the unreported sightings of a startling river monster.

Sublime, genre-mixed, hard-to-put-down original serial novel series, this. The history- and character-punctuated horrors mount well, culminating in a satisfactory story- and mood-consistent denouement that dovetails not-so-nicely (in a horrific way) with the beginning of the story.

Own this.

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