Clegg gained attention last year for Naomi, his serialized horror novel that, arguably, was the first major work of fiction to originate in cyberspace. Genre cognoscenti, however, know him also for several acclaimed earlier novels, including The Halloween Man. Clegg's new book, which marks his first hardcover publication under his own name, is as powerful literarily and morally as anything he's written. Densely textured in plot, language and character, it tells of the 1980 destruction of the body and soul of a small desert town in California and of the resolution, 20 years later, of that supernaturally created holocaust; past and present mingle throughout, as if in a dream. The act of dreaming is a primary motif in the book, for the agent of destruction, Lamia (""lamia was fluid from steamy swamps... always feeding from the dying... until a depraved animal walking on two feet learned to pass lamia, to cultivate and worship lamia, to call it god, then demon....""), who, manifested in the body of a beautiful teenage girl, bends the reality of those upon whom she feeds, psychically and physically. Set amid the town's squalor of trailer parks, organized dogfights and fevered relationships of those with no escape, and also in the hard streets of Manhattan, a drug den in Los Angeles and elsewhere, the novel reads like a nightmare on paper as Clegg traces the fates of several of Lamia's victims. His imagery is intense, horrific, sexually violent--patricide, incestuous rape and cannibalism are among the crimes he envisions--but he paints with a poet's hand. Despite its monstrousness, his vision tenders a kind of hope; Lamia's destructive powers are balanced by another's force for healing, and, at novel's end, one victim recognizes the power of ""grace."" This is horror at its finest. (Mar.) FYI: Also in March but after Cemetery Dance's publication of this novel, Dorchester/Leisure will release a mass market edition ($5.99 400p ISBN 0-8439-4695-4).
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000 Release date: 03/01/2000 Genre: Fiction