Tengu – Graham Masterton



Title: Tengu
Author: Graham Masterton
Published by: Sphere, new edition 1988.
Publication date: January 1st, 1983
Genre: Horror
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback – Omnibus
Source: Personal collection – Sutton on Sea Charity shop!

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Tengu is another offering from author Graham Masterton. I’m pretty sure I’ve stated that I am a fan of Mastertons work so my thoughts on his offerings will be featured quite a bit in this blog. He is my ‘go too’ author when I don’t have anything else to read and whose new novels I look for first in the library. And still feel a little twinge of excitement whenever I find a book of his I’ve not read before; that being said I maybe have my expectations a little too high for him now and am possibly a little too critical over his work because of this.

Tengu is a novel telling the tale of how those effected by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War vow revenge upon the US for the atrocities committed against them and for the suffering they and their families endured. In order to do this they invoke the meanest of the mean Japanese spirits, the Tengu, to possess men and point them vaguely in the direction of who they want to be brutally murdered. Really the premise is a Masterton classic – evil spirits murdering people.

If you’re already familiar with Mastertons work, you’ll realise the story runs similar parallels to The Manitou series. Ancient spirits go on a rampage for revenge, only this time they’re Japanese not Native American. Where Tengu falls down compared to the Manitou though is the cast. They’re flimsy and a bit confusing, like Masterton couldn’t decide which angle to lead the story from. In Manitou with have the quirky, self proclaimed phoney fortune teller Harry Erskine a character with so much personality he carries off the rest of the novels (and it’s follow ups) pretty well. But in Tengu we’re not treated to the same richness in character. Just a bunch of rag-tag guys playing the hero for… some reason or another. one harbours some guilt from his time In the military and being directly involved in the decision to bomb Japan, relating to the Tengu spirits. A detective and his partner. And a couple of other guys including a circus strong man, adulterous business man and mysterious antagonist called Mr. Esmeralda, who helps to carry the story with links to the even more mysterious, Kappa the mastermind behind the plan with the Tengu.

The book is a bit mixed bag, a strong start and a lot of intrigue, but the story is over complicated by the lack of real focus behind the protagonists. They come from a couple of angles and it’s difficult to understand the driving force behind the novel as a whole because of this. It also leads to the mid section of the novel being drawn out for the sake of it and a rushed and highly unsatisfying ending.

There is, of course, the sexual element to the novel which readers who aren’t familiar with Mastertons novels might find a little irksome. However, I just see them as part and parcel to the novels now. As soon as I pick up a Mastertons novel I look out for who is going to be sleeping with who and it’s honestly just a part of “Graham Masterton ispy” now. But I can understand that it might be a bit annoying to readers who aren’t expecting such erotic scenes in a horror novel.

In honestly, this is probably one of my least enjoyed Masterton reads, because I know he can do a lot better than this offering. That being said, the format in which I am reading this book is an omnibus, so I have a lot of hope for the next offering being better. It was also first written and published in 1983, so might be a little dated in context.


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