Eric Ericson – The Sorcerer (Nel, Feb. 1978)
A blood-curdling story of Satanism, murder and the supernatural
When Mason, a young scientist, escorts his lover to a wild sexual orgy he suddenly finds, himself unwittingly initiated into a ruthless and dedicated coven – a coven with unparallelled Satanic powers spurred on to ever greater heights of depravity by its power-crazed `master’. In return for his services Mason is promised untold delights; but should he fail he is assured of a ghastly and horrible vengeance. His task – to unravel the secrets of the Jewel, the most sought-after goal of the black arts, the elixir of eternal life. But as he becomes acquainted with the perverted ways of the coven he develops peculiar powers – powers which the coven hadn’t bargained on. Powers which are growing all the time.
As the bid for the Jewel becomes bloodier and more violent he bides his time. Sooner or later he knows his moment will come….
I know that reads like one of our spoiler-filled ‘reviews’, but actually it’s just the cover blurb.
London. Scientist John Mason is enticed along to what he thinks is a simple, everyday orgy by latest lover Esta. In reality, he’s been targeted by her master, Frazer, a powerful Satanist with a birthmark (“a spoiled face, uncompromisingly repulsive”) because your true top diabolists are always disfigured. Esta serves as the altar at the ensuing Black Mass and Mason is obliged to give her one in front of everyone as part of his initiation. He’s not comfortable with this but cheers up when he performs the same service for another four members of the coven – and him a twice-a-night man, tops! Frazer solemnly informs him that he has passed the test and from now on he shall be known as ‘Thomas’.
After the sexual shenanigans he’s granted audience with Frazer and, despite conceding the guy’s definitely got something, dismisses him as a very capable hypnotist and stage magician. It’s only when Frazer patiently explains to him that he is now beholden to the Coven that Mason gets angry, accuses him of spouting ridiculous mumbo jumbo and makes his exit. He’s soon to learn his mistake.
That night he’s visited by a succubus as punishment for his recalcitrance and the gloating Frazer telephones to inform him his presence is required again tonight. When he finds Esta sitting in his car he goes to strike her but she effortlessly snatches his hand from the air and holds it to her breast. It’s not just Frazer who has incredible powers, she tells him. They all have. And so will he if he’ll only quit his futile resistance.
Esta explains to Mason/ ‘Thomas’ that he wasn’t their first choice pet scientist. That honour befell young Michael Benton but he proved unsatisfactory. Esta drives him over to meet the reject.
He was in a small bathroom. On the floor at his feet a bloated, pyjama-clad corpse lay on its side in a huge stain of black dried blood. The throat was cut deeply, the edges of the wound curled back like open lips. Putrescence had turned the skin of the face and neck greenish and slimy.
Clearly Frazer and his cult are not people to be trifled with, a warning the Satanist reinforces when he demonstrates his mastery over the weather during that nights entertainment, the ‘Ordeal By Fire’.
Something else that’s immediately apparent: we’re not dealing with the delightfully mindless likes of Terror Of The Seven Crypts here. As Steve mentioned on the old Woman Who Slept With Demons thread, Ericson convinces as a man who knows of what he writes. I’m up to page 60 (of 220) and so far so very impressed.
Elspeth told him that there were so-called covens everywhere. But mostly they were groups of amateurs playing at sexual games and sadism, digging up coffins in deserted graveyards and cutting the throats of stray cats; the sort of antics that got reported in the popular Sunday newspapers. Frazer’s coven wanted nothing to do with people like that
The biggest compliment I can pay him is that I gave up taking notes after page 60 and just settled back to enjoy the ride.
It’s maybe too crass to describe it as a Satanic soap but that’s the best I can manage right now. Virtually every Black Magic novel I can think of follows the Wheatley formula, the forces of good taking on, and invariably defeating those of evil. The Sorcerer dispenses with meddling De Richleau wannabe’s altogether. Frazer’s coven are as adept at covering their tracks as they are raising the dead, destroying their enemies with lightening bolts, travelling to the realm of death (a black void of total nothingness, if you’re wondering) or the more mundane business of swindling foreign banks, so the only threat can come from within.
I’ll try and come up with something vaguely resembling an intelligent post after I’ve attempted to translate the last page (!).
Best novel I’ve read so far this year.