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Usher's Passing (1992)

Usher's Passing (1992)

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3.84 of 5 Votes: 5
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0671769928 (ISBN13: 9780671769925)
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About book Usher's Passing (1992)

”There were dark blue hollows beneath his eyes, his lips were gray and slack, and the cheap brown suit he wore was blotched with mud and mildew. The front of his white linen shirt and his tattered black ascot was dappled with sherry stains; his frayed cuffs shot out of the coat like a poor schoolboy’s. He radiated the heat of fever, and as he shivered in a sudden chill he lay down his pen and put a trembling hand to his brow; his dark hair was damp with sweat, and tiny beads of moisture in his thin dark mustache glinted with yellow lamplight. Poe gave a deep, rattling cough. ‘Forgive me,’ he said. ‘I’ve been ill.’” When Edgar Allan Poe conceived the Usher Malady, in his famous short story, I do wonder if he wasn’t describing an affliction that he himself had suffered from in some form or fashion. When I read of him, he is never vigorous but always on the point of collapse. Though his body may be wracked with fever or with cold sweats, there is little doubt that any blight he is suffering from originates from the melancholy that hangs like a foggy curtain in all the corners of his mind. Poe told us about Roderick and Madeline Usher, but he never mentioned there was another brother Hudson. After much searching through dusty archives and long lost references, Robert R. McCammon discovered the missing connections and found that the Usher’s are alive and well...well...maybe not all that well. Walen Usher is dying, and though Rix had swore he would never return to Usherland, he finds himself irresistibly drawn back into the madness of his family. His brother Boone and his sister Katt are also part of their father’s death vigil. The Usher’s have been in the armament business, and the various arms races going on around the world have been very good to the family. In fact, ten billion dollars good. Rix doesn’t want anything to do with the family business; actually, he was arrested protesting the war, much to the embarrassment of his family. He is a struggling horror writer. Part of his struggle comes from the fact that he refuses to use his family name, but instead writes under a pseudonym. More marketing dollars would be available, and more interest generated, if the reading public knew his books were being written by an Usher. He doesn’t want anything to do with the name of Usher. Still...ten billion dollars. ”--no more hassles no more books no more agents’ dirty looks--”Boone is a gambling fool, a puffed shirt really, a bully, and completely unsuited to take over as patriarch of the Usher family. Katt has the inside track with a beautiful face and a beautiful mind to go with it. Still, no woman has ever wielded the cane, the family sceptre for which some unknown power seems to exude. The Usher Malady is hereditary, and it has been passed down faithfully to each new generation. Walen was a vigorous, healthy man just weeks before, but now his body seems to be melting from within and without. The reek from his decomposition permeates the house and becomes a constant reminder of what the Malady will eventually do to all the Usher siblings. Rix, out of desperation with the added bonus of being disloyal to his father, decides that he will write a history of the Usher family. His father had brought boxes of diaries, letters, and papers from the Usher archives to the library intending to study them, but now, with revelation after revelation, they fan the flames of Rix’s ambition. There is more at stake than he knew, and as his investigations take him deeper into the family secrets, other powerful forces are trying to shape the course of events and the future of the Usher name. Raven Dunstan-- the crusading reporter who wants to know the truth about the Usher family. The Mountain King--”His complexion was a chalky yellow. She stared at the network of scars that covered almost all of his face; the right eye was gone. The left eye, though covered with a thin gray film, was pale green and held a gleam of crafty intelligence.”The Pumpkin Man--”He wore a funeral suit of black velvet and a black top hat. His face was as yellow as spoiled milk. He carried a scythe that glowed electric blue in the moonlight, and with a wave of one skeletal hand he parted the underbrush before him. Those who had seen him and lived to tell the tale said his eyes shone like green lamps, his face was split by a cunning grin, his teeth sharpened to tiny points.”The Pumpkin Man, as if he isn’t scary enough, has a sidekick, a black panther like no other. ”Greediguts’ eyes were golden-green lamps in the dark. Slowly the monster emerged...first its blood-smeared maw, then its black skull with the lightning-streak burn across it--.... Its muscular body blocked the tunnel, and its leathery, scaled tail rose up and snapped brutally in the air.”It becomes difficult for Rix to decipher who has the real power. The true agendas of all involved are hidden under generations of secrecy and misleading information. Is the sceptre the key to everything, or is there something much more diabolical at work in the House of Usher?I had started reading this book, and within a few pages I set it aside and pulled my Library of America Collected Tales of Poe from the shelf. I was becoming uneasy that McCammon would throw some wonderful references to the original story in this novel, and I would miss them simply because too much time had passed since I’d read The Fall of the House of Usher. I’m so glad I did reread the Poe story and would certainly recommend the same course of action to anyone considering reading this book. To those who love Poe this is a must read. To those who are looking for a gothic horror fix this certainly fits the bill. To those that appreciate a fast paced, yet thoughtful, thrilling, reading experience this book will certainly fire your imagination and keep you entertained deep into the darkest part of the night. My The Fall of the House of Usher ReviewIf you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

"The Fall of the House of Usher" is arguably one of Poe's most Gothic stories, a tale of hereditary doom that might be tricky for the reader to get into but also quite likely to haunt the imagination thereafter. McCammon takes a risk in crafting a story so obviously inspired by Poe's classic story but he succeeds in crafting a contemporary Gothic tale with strong horror elements.The first chapter of the novel starts things on a strong note, presenting a fascinatingly sinister picture of one of the Usher clan as he confronts Edgar Allan Poe over his writing of a story about the family. Poe swears he thought it was purely fiction, that perhaps he heard about them second-hand and subconsciously worked the family into a story he thought he had dreamed up.It sets the tone well, making it clear that while connected to Poe's story, McCammon intends to make Usher's Passing his own story and to update the old Gothic theme of the doomed family line. From there, events leap forward to the present day. Rix Usher is called back to the family home near Asheville, North Carolina, by his father, Walen, who is dying from a hereditary terminal illness which enhances the senses of its victims. The Usher family has prospered in the years since that encounter with Mr. Poe, growing incredibly wealthy off of the business of manufacturing weapons. They now possess a large estate in the mountains of North Carolina, dominated by a large, though unused, mansion they call The Lodge. The estate has its own Gothic reputation, and the locals tell stories about The Pumpkin Man, who snatches up children, and his monstrous feline companion, Greediguts.At home, Rix has to contend with his mother Margaret, who is in denial regarding her husband's impending demise; his arrogant brother Boone and his fading Southern Belle of a wife; and his sister Katt, whose glamorous lifestyle conceals dark secrets. Rix's latest novel has been rejected by his publisher, and his return inspires thoughts about writing the Usher family history. While delving into the old documents in the library, he begins to uncover secrets and mysteries of the family.McCammon's handling of the story's connection with its inspiration is well done. Poe's presence is certainly felt, from little story details to the climax of the book, but done with a light enough touch that it doesn't feel smothered by allusion. McCammon captures the traditional Gothic feeling of the doomed family and their imposing ancestral home, whose ominous presence reflects the family's own history. He gives these elements a very contemporary and Southern twist, giving the Usher's the Faulknerian feel of a family whose riches based off of the blood of others, but who have gained a certain measure of respectability thanks to their wealth and endurance. As the events of the novel unfold, the depths of the Usher family's crimes become explicit, and the judgment that falls across their house in the climax is worthy of Poe's original tale.

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Written as a sort of sequel to The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe's tale, while not being an account of actual events, comes so close that Roderick Usher's brother accuses Poe of copying the true events.Fast Forward to the 1980s and near Asheville, NC the location of the Usher estate, known simply as The Lodge, where the Ushers have lived for centuries. The location is reminiscent of the Biltmore estate in Asheville although only as the location for the tale.The horror writer Rix Usher (obviously McCammon's alter ego in this one) is the only Usher that does not live on the Estate having left years ago to pursue an independent career. Nevertheless he is still afflicted by the Usher Curse, obviously based on Roderick's affliction in the Poe story and the only Usher that seems to age. Rix is summoned back to the estate along with all the other Ushers to attend to their dying father Walen Usher. Thus the background for the story.McCammon's strength is usually characterization although I think he sacrifices some of that here, making a number of characters two-dimensional, in favor of a much more complicated and stronger plot than usual. By midway through the book it seems that it will be almost impossible to bring all these threads together but McCammon clearly has an idea where he wants to go and sews things up nicely. Unlike King, McCammon knows how to ALWAYS finish a tale well. I do think with one or two changes the finish could have been more poignant but this isn't how McCammon ended his early novels.I think this is one of McCammon's better early novels and although Boy's Life and Swan Song are hard to beat. I would start with Swan Song if you are new to McCammon although you are going to immediately think it somewhat derivative of King.Usher's Passing is a fun and thoughtful read. All McCammon's novels are now available as e-books as Usher has been long out of print otherwise. However, it is still possible to acquire a decent physical copy for a reasonable price on the secondary market.
—Randolph Carter

Robert R. McCammon has got to be one of the greatest storytellers I've ever had the pleasure of being introduced to. The quality of his work never ceases to amaze me ... the way he can just draw you right in and create such realistic characters and sweeping dramas that don't feel like it's taking as long to get through as the book actually is (especially when you're listening to the audiobook version). It's amazing to me. As a writer, I'm humbled, astounded with admiration, and intimidated by this man's talent. Usher's Passing tells the tale of the famous Usher family from Edgar Allen Poe's work ... except it's even better than what Poe generated. The story centers around the Usher family living in the mountains of North Carolina in 'modern' time (the book came out in the 80s, but it doesn't feel all that dated) and follows several different characters, primarily focusing on one of the Usher children (as an adult), a newspaper reporter, and a young (teen) mountain boy. Their paths intermingle as the creepy plot drives forward. McCammon pulls everything together so effectively (and totally surprising me with his various 'reveals' at the end) that I was sorry when the book finally ended.Recommended.

I loved this book! I found it very interesting how McCammon took some Poe and expanded upon it. I love stories about houses and was terribly intrigued by the Lodge. I just wish we had more of a look inside the Lodge. If anyone read Harry Potter, tell me if the inside of the Lodge didn't remind you of Howarts the way stairways moved and things changed.The ending was both predictable and not so predictable. I loved the part about the Ushers being cannibals; needing human flesh to survive! That was

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