Woodstock, Helter Skelter and Ray Pye. You're probably only familiar with the first two but it's the third one that will get your attention. Getting attention is one of the things Ray is good at as you will learn in The Lost by Jack Ketchum.
In 1965 Ray, Tim and Jennifer were drinking at the local campground when Ray decided to get some attention. He pointed out two young women camping just down the hill and wondered aloud what it would be like to kill them. Before long he had his answer along with two people who would do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.
Four years later we find Jennifer depending on the drugs and alcohol to help her make it through the days and clinging to Ray in a search for love. Tim is in love with Jennifer and clinging to Ray for the drugs and some sense of guidance in life. Ray is pleased as punch to have these two hanging on his every word and action. Ray is the king of the teens and the bane of the local police force. Nobody was ever charged with the murder of the two campers but the local detectives have no doubt it was Ray Pye. The problem is they could never find the evidence needed to arrest him. Everybody knows Ray is dangerous and thinks it's only a matter of time before he proves it.
Jack Ketchum has the ability to scare readers by writing about the kind of people they see every day. I can think of a guy I went to high school with and another I did factory work with that could have easily been Ray Pye. I've worked with people like Jennifer and Tim. Jack's characters aren't just words on paper. They leap off the pages and become real to you. You will care how the characters feel, you will worry about what is happening to them and sometimes they will simply scare the hell out of you. How well are the characters developed? I took an extended break at work while reading The Lost to see what was going to happen next to the cat in the story.
Like the other work by Jack Ketchum I've read this book is on my re-read list. It's not as graphic as Off Season or Weed Species were. I think it would make a great introduction to Jack's writing for those that might have held back because of the graphic depictions in some of his other work.
This book is like a roller coaster. You have the initial jolt to your system as the cars begin to leave the station, the nerve wracking climb up the first hill not knowing what to expect, the terrifying thrills as you are propelled through the ride and finally returning to the station knowing that you are ok but unsure about the people around you.
Something I enjoyed about this Dorchester release of the book was the cover. As the story progresses you will find yourself trying to guess exactly who the girl on the cover is. If you can find some of the special printings though, buy them.
The title "The Lost" was a great choice because it can easily be applied to all of the characters and settings in this novel. If you ever spend time in a small and dying town you'll see what I mean. Great choice.
A special "Thank you!"to Jack for allowing me to quote the following paragraph:
He still remembered that night four years ago as though it had happened yesterday. Specific events would come back to him at peculiar times. He'd be sipping a cherry Coke at the corner of a soda fountain waiting for Ray and he'd remember pulling up and finding them both gone and finding the note telling them both to stay put and he'd remember Jennifer's panic, not knowing what in the hell had gone wrong but both he and Jennifer scared to drive away, scared of Ray and just as scared to stick around some dead girl's body. Not knowing what to do, whether to load the tent and all their gear into the car or not and consequently not doing anything, just waiting by the cold remains of the fire.
Hopefully the movie adaptation of the novel will be picked up for large scale distribution this year. You can see more about it at www.thelostmovie.net complete with pictures, soundtrack clips and a message board.