I recently read Night Caller by Daniel Ransom and I had a really good time with it. Sally Baines and her daughter Jamie are on vacation in the Midwest when their car breaks down on a rural stretch of highway. It isn’t long before a farmer gentleman rescues them with a ride into the nearest town: Haversham. He seems like a nice man, but he looks at Jamie strangely, and even more disconcerting, when they arrive in town Sally and Jamie see him eagerly pointing them out to another local. Their unease continues to mount when they are told their car won’t be ready until the following day. And things really begin to feel strange when they go to the local hotel—The Royal—looking for a room.
I’m not an expert—or even well read—when it comes to 80s horror, but Night Caller very much has an 80s feel about it. It’s small town horror with a twist of psycho, and maybe just a touch of Stephen King. The characters are amusing, especially a local doctor and a disgraced national television news reporter. The mother-daughter team of Sally and Jamie are central to the plotline, and they hold up well as the story unfolds. There is a large cast of local characters who keep the story fresh and Ed Gorman, as usual, adds more than a little mystery and suspense into the mix to keep it interesting.
Night Caller is, simply put, damn fun. It is a fast read—maybe 90 minutes of reading time—and fits the bill perfectly if you’re in the mood for light horror. And, if there are any producers out there, it would make a terrific television movie. Maybe something similar—in production values and theme—to one of those semi-campy Stephen King television movies of the 90s.
Zebra Books published Night Caller in October 1987; it was a paperback original.
P.S. Gravetapping is going to be quiet over the next week. I'm going on a much anticipated vacation with the added benefit of little to no Internet access. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season.