I have decided that I want to be David Morrell when I grow up. Morrell is perhaps best known for having created an American icon, John Rambo, in his novel FIRST BLOOD. If Morrell was receiving royalties from every screenwriter who has used Rambo as a springboard template for an action movie, then he would have more money than Bill Gates.
But Morrell is much more than a creator of action heroes. He is a quiet-spoken gentleman who possesses an incredible amount of knowledge about a wide range of topics; he is also able --- perhaps better than any other individual I know --- to explain the complex in easily understandable terms without insulting the listener's intelligence by dumbing down the topic. Additionally, over the past 30 years, Morrell has penned enough thrillers to earn a groaning bookshelf devoted entirely to volumes of his work, most of which are of such quality that it constitutes an injustice that he is not quite the household name that his best-known creation is.
So, at a career point when lesser writers would be phoning in an annual work with predictable regularity, Morrell has bestowed upon the reading public CREEPERS. As with the best of his work, it blurs the lines that separate several genres; while ostensibly a thriller, it is also a mystery, a work of historical fiction, and, yes, a romance. It is the thriller element, however, that will keep you reading well into the night, sleeping with the light on, and out of dark and deserted places where you shouldn't be anyway.
Creepers are people who explore abandoned buildings that ostensibly are off-limits. Morrell's fine novel begins with four such individuals who are about to enter the legendary Paragon Hotel. The Paragon was once a destination hotel in storied Asbury Park, New Jersey, but has been abandoned for decades. The once proud building is slated for demolition, and Professor Robert Conklin wants to lead this group of urban spelunkers through it before the fateful date. The quartet is joined by Frank Balenger, who is introduced as a New York Times reporter seeking a story but who has a story of his own --- as does just about everyone, and everything.
For, you see, the Paragon Hotel has many stories of its own, and they are waiting in the rooms, behind closed doors --- like that one, and that one, and…well, you really don't want to open that one. You'll regret it if you do. There's this one room with a suitcase that you'll never get over.
I'm not really sure how Morrell managed to do this, but CREEPERS takes place over the course of about eight hours. This is approximately how long it will take the average reader to read the book --- which you will do, without stopping, once you have started it.
If CREEPERS isn't nominated for a ton of awards, if it isn't optioned for a film, and if it isn't a book that people will be talking about 10 years from now, then there is something seriously broken in this world. Highest possible recommendation.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 12, 2011