Book Reviews

{Review} THE AUCTIONEER, by Joan Samson

{Review} THE AUCTIONEER, by Joan SamsonTHE AUCTIONEER by Joan Samson
Published by Valancourt Books on July 24, 2018
Genres: Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Psychological Horror, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 225
Format: eBook
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One of the finest and best-selling horror novels of the 1970s returns at last to chill a new generation of readers

In the isolated farming community of Harlowe, New Hampshire, where life has changed little over the past several decades, John Moore and his wife Mim work the land that has been in his family for generations. But from the moment the charismatic Perly Dinsmore arrives in town and starts soliciting donations for his auctions, things begin slowly and insidiously to change in Harlowe. As the auctioneer carries out his terrible, inscrutable plan, the Moores and their neighbors will find themselves gradually but inexorably stripped of their freedom, their possessions, and perhaps even their lives ...

A chilling masterpiece of terror whose sense of creeping menace and dread increases page by page, Joan Samson's The Auctioneer (1975) is a rediscovered classic of 20th-century fiction. With echoes of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Stephen King's Needful Things, Samson's novel returns to print at last in this long-awaited new edition, which features an introduction by Grady Hendrix (Horrorstör, Paperbacks from Hell) and an afterword by the author's husband.

"Buy this book ... there is no way to stop reading it, once you've started!" - Baltimore Sun

"A well-made piece of dynamite ... For all their talk, the author seems to be saying, men will permit their souls to be carried away bit by bit and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Samson has written a suspenseful, engrossing novel with the most gripping and violent ending we've encountered for some time." - Newsday

"A frightening novel . . . a powerful book from a powerful writer." - The Grand Rapids Press

"A novel you may never forget . . . a tight classic." - San Diego Tribune

"Brilliant, compelling . . . Add a powerful twist at the end and you have a total novel that takes hold of the reader on Page One and never lets go until the finish. This just could prove to be one of the top thrillers of the year." - Dayton News

THE AUCTIONEER, by Joan Samson, was first issued in 1976. This new edition released by Valancourt Books in 2018 comes with an all new introduction by Grady Hendrix, as well as an afterword by the author’s husband, Warren Carberg.

This novel takes place in a farming community called Harlowe. In a quiet, peaceful American town where change is very slow to come, John and Mim Moore farm the land that John’s family had owned for many generations. With their beautiful four-year-old daughter, Hildie, and John’s mother, “Ma”, living with them, we have a perfect postcard picture of perhaps a “simpler” time in America.

However, the author is quick to show the slow and calculating terror that can overcome a community almost before they even realize what’s happening. In this case, it all starts with a newcomer named Perly Dunsmore and his slight request for old items to be donated to his planned auctions . . .

“When your life turns into a lie, the first person you need to deceive is yourself . . . “

Samson weaves this tale with exact precision. We’ll get a taste of the happy Moore family going about their everyday duties together, and then a small intrusion into their slice of paradise to give the first stirrings of trouble.

THE AUCTIONEER is not “in-your-face” horror, but a much more subtle, slowly mounting terror that takes a while to reach its peak. Nonetheless, once it starts, the emotions, losses, and their implications never let up–the fear is always present, ratcheting up inexorably page by page.

“. . . He won’t stop . . . There are people like that. Either you give in or you run.”

The language used is beautiful in its simplicity. We learn as much of how these changes are slowly devastating their traditional way of life by what is NOT stated as we do by what is. The omissions; usual outings that are cancelled, and the strain upon the household, shows us more than words could convey. This was true–not only in households–but also in interactions between neighbors.

“. . . They talked the way they always had, except that now the familiar conversations seemed to be built on a silence as deep as the one that prevailed at home.”

Overall, I felt this was a brilliantly executed story that showcases how “unwanted” change can stealthily creep in on even the most complacent of towns. We are shown the old-time values, and how they contrast with “newer” lifestyles in more populated regions. Even the most loyal of citizens can be taken in by smooth-talking charlatans if the topic is right.

When things are beyond out-of-hand, how would you react, and how far would you go to protect your family and your way of life?



I am an avid reader/reviewer and collector of books--primarily horror, supernatural, and supernatural-themed thrillers.

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