Nick Cutter’s (one of Craig Davidson’s pen names) The Troop, from the very first paragraphs:
EAT EAT EAT EAT
The boat skipped over the waves, the drone of its motor trailing across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The moon was a bone fishhook in the clear October sky.
The man was wet from the spray that kicked over the gunwale. The outline of his body was visible under his drenched clothes. He could have easily been mistaken for a scarecrow left carelessly unattended in a farmer’s field, stuffing torn out by scavenging animals.
He’d stolen the boat from a dock at North Point, at the furthest tip of Prince Edward Island, reaching the dock in a truck he’d hotwired in a diner parking lot.
feels like the writing of a frustrated screenwriter. My suspicions confirmed as I continued to read. This book once was a screenplay or it’s author ultimately wrote it so that one day it would be a movie.
The introduction, the interstitial segments, the ending it all screams B-tier Hollywood horror film. The book’s epilogue is might as well be a post-credit bonus scene. In the context of the story it doesn’t make any sense but it does set up a potential sequel and is a well-worn horror movie trope. I will be very surprised if the book is not adapted to the screen, big or small. (I began writing this post before searching for anything. A quick search and sure enough an adaptation of the book is being produced by James Wan and directed by E. L. Katz.)
The horror genre, written and cinematic, is full of tropes. That isn’t bad, quick short-cuts that allow the story to skip along at a brisk pace. I don’t always need to know an elaborate backstory to a character. Sometimes it is enough to know that she is the “Final Girl.” But, tropes make more sense in a movie where production costs and standard film lengths constrain the artist. The book has no such constraints, and it makes sense in this medium to spend some effort on creating a more fully realized setting and characters.
Alas, Cutter doesn’t do that in The Troop. His prose is sparse unless he is describing the body horror that is central to the conceit of the book. Then, the words flow and the page fills with paragraphs of details that read more like scene setting and camera direction than they do prose.
I’ve not read much contemporary horror in American Fiction. I wonder how much of it Cutter is mirroring in his book?