The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine by John Llewellyn Probert is the latest release in the Spectral Visions series from Spectral Press. The novella tells the story of a crazed serial killer who murders his victims, all doctors, in the style of murders that happen in Vincent Price films. The novella is dedicated to the memory of Vincent Price and John Llewellyn Probert does not disappoint in this wonderful tribute to the great man.
The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine pays homage to the finest moments of Vincent Price’s wonderful career. To reveal which particular moments from Price’s career are included in the story would be unfair and ruin a large part of the storyline, but the story is not necessarily key to the enjoyment held in this novella. The most enjoyable parts of it are Probert’s delightfully ghoulish descriptions of how the doctors are killed. Probert’s passion for film is common knowledge throughout the horror genre and he allows it to shine through in his prose – many writers have a distinct voice yet Probert’s comes through so well in the murder scenes that it is almost as he is reading them to you himself.
There is a danger when an author is extremely knowledgeable about a subject, that excessive detail can clog up the flow of the prose, however this is not the case with John Probert. Expositional scenes are done with care and attention, enough detail is given to enlighten those unfamiliar with Price’s films whilst striking the happy medium of not boring those already initiated. The appendix The Nine Films of Dr. Valentine goes into more detail about the films mentioned in the main story and is in itself a treat that comes highly recommended to all film fans.
Probert’s plot possesses a vaudevillian quality, it features a couple of purposely clichéd cops tracking a murderer who creates daring and increasingly garish ways to kill people. The whole tone of the novella has a tongue-in-cheek quality to it and the humour used is excellent, one particular Daily Mail headline hit the nail very firmly on the head.
One of the main skills that Probert has as a writer is the ability to create something entirely new yet remain true to his roots. Faculty of Terror is one of the finest examples of a portmanteau piece currently available, whilst the stories are uniquely Probert’s it still has the feel of something familiar, namely old Amicus films, without ever becoming cliché or repetitive. The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine carries on this trend and allows the author to twist things he enjoys for the reader’s considerable pleasure.
It does have to be said, however, that whilst The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine is a hugely enjoyable read it does clash rather noticeably against the quiet horror ethos that Spectral Press have demonstrated so beautifully in their previous releases to-date. This is not to take anything away from the novella itself, it is a fantastic read but it does not necessarily continue the Spectral trend of challenging, subtle horror and does contain a certain amount of extravagant death scenes.
In short, The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine is a colourful and bloody romp through classic Vincent Price horror films. The shocks are in plentiful supply in this gory caper which is sure to please both film buffs and the uninitiated alike.