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BOB RANDALL
The Fan and The Calling


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The Fan
Magnum, London, 1978
price: 90p; 248 pages
(first published Martin Secker & Warburg, 1977)

dedication: To Julia and Edward

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The Calling
NEL, London, 1983
price: 1.60; 188 pages
(first published Simon & Schuster, 1981)

dedication: For Mickie



The blurb on the back:

The Fan:
A dazzlingly suspenseful shocker of love, hate and fear,
The Fan unfolds its horrifying story by letting the reader in on the private correspondence of a famous movie star. Little did glamorous Sally Ross imagine that amongst the pile of letters dealt with by her tough secretary Bella there were many from one who signed himself Douglas Breen, the Fan. Nor did Bella realize that behind the calm, polite phrases of the Fan's letters lurked the crazed mind of a psychopath - a deadly killer for whom overwhelming love could turn overnight into violence and terrifying hate.

The Calling:
She answered the phone.
Nothing: no voice, no breathing, no dialling or engaged tone.
Nothing, an utter blankness. A dead line, that was all. And yet a nothingness that was charged with a terrible ominous positive quality.
Strangely shaken, she put the receiver down. Later it rang again: a flicker of irrational fear as she moved to answer. And the old dog, disturbed, cringed and whimpered in its sleep.
Again, nothing. An awful evil positive nothing.
Later again, out on the street the pay phone started ringing as she passed. Ringing eerily, insistently ... following her ... following her ...
That was the beginning, just the beginning.


opening lines:

The Fan:
Dear Sal
The script arrived from Dino De Laurentiis. It's interesting, but frankly I don't see it as a star vehicle.

The Calling:
Something was wrong.
Susan sat in her cubicle (the editor called it an office, but the editor called apartments 'flats') and thought.


There was a moment when it seemed as though Bob Randall was going to become a really big name in terror fiction - round about the time of these two books, in fact - but then he wandered off into writing plays, I believe, and it never quite happened. Which is a shame because both of these are really nice little potboilers, with more creativity than a shed-load of the other stuff that was around back then.

The Fan was, as far as I know, his first book, and unexpectedly revived the tradition of the epistolary novel that had been so big back in the 18th century. Well, the sleeve notes tell the story pretty accurately, but it's worth adding that the letters from the stalker are really very fine indeed, a sketched but convinced portrait of a psychotic mind at work. Inevitably the format becomes too restrictive as we approach the climax and we need things to move a bit faster than the postal service will allow, but it's still a neat little tale.

The Calling came out in 1981, the same year as a movie of the The Fan (which wasn't up to much, but did star Lauren Bacall), and it's even better. The central character is an illustrator of modern gothic stories in women's magazines, and there's something of the old school shocker about the story of her persecution at the hands of an unknown tormentor, but given a lovely twist by the use of the telephone as an instrument of menace. This one didn't get filmed, which seems a tad unfair, given that the likes of Eyes of Laura Mars could command big budgets.

Both seem a bit scarce nowadays, but they're well worth finding. And I expect the other two novels by Mr Randall of which I've heard - The Next and The Last Man on the List - would be as well, but I haven't read them so I can't be sure.


The Fan
ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
2/5
The Calling
ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
4/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
2/5


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