The point? Other than David Morrell is a terrific writer? I recently reread Mr. Morrell’s second novel, Testament, and really had a good time. It is a suspense novel with a stark and brutal plot and even better writing. It is similar to First Blood in that both are essentially chase novels. The difference between the two are the characters—John Rambo is a major league tough guy with not much to lose, and Reuben Bourne (the protagonist in Testament) is a family man with everything to lose.
The novel opens with Bourne and his family—his wife, his young daughter and his infant son—enjoying the morning meal, but everything is about to fall apart. He is a writer and several months earlier he wrote an unflattering article about a Militia leader. When it was published the subject of the article threatened Bourne and his family, but Bourne didn’t think much about it until the final morning with his family; a morning that left Bourne a shattered, scared and a nearly broken man.
Testament opens with a flash. The opening line reads:
“It was the last morning the four of them would ever be together: the man and his wife, his daughter and his son.”And it never lets up. The chase begins in Bourne’s house, but it quickly moves to a small cabin in a rural town. Then it moves into the wilderness where Bourne is drawn to his limit. It is written in a starkly realistic style. The action is quick, hard and believable. There is a scene in a ghost town—a town that isn’t marked on any maps, a town that is nearly intact, the buildings upright, whiskey still on shelves, glasses and plates set at tables and blankets and beds—where a battle ensues between Bourne and his pursuers that is as well written and suspenseful as anything I have read.
I came across Testament late. I read it for the first time in 2005, but it has become my favorite of David Morrell’s novels for the simple reason that it terrifies me. The situation is frightening—a man against real, solid bogeymen who also must battle the harsh reality of winter in a wilderness without provisions. It is something of a mix between Jack London and Geoffrey Household; particularly Household's Rogue Male. It is reminiscent of these older tales, but it also still fresh and invigorating nearly forty years after its first publication.
This review, in slightly different form, first went live at Dark City Underground on July 29, 2010.