Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review: The Legacy by John Coyne

Title: The Legacy
Author: John Coyne
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: 04/01/1979
ISBN: 0425041832

I stumbled across this little gem at my local used book store and despite having finals and a Heather Graham book to finish, I couldn't help but start flipping through it and finish it. It's a pretty fast read, so I don't feel overwhelmingly guilty at doing so. The book is unfortunately out of print, but you can still find used copies through the regular online vendors and (obviously) used book stores.

The story follows two Americans, Maggie and Peter, as they set out to England to take a job redecorating a prestigious office building. Once they get there, they discover that not only does the office not require their services, nobody remembers hiring them and the person responsible for sending them a job offer and plane tickets has been called away and is unreachable. (Remember that this is set in the 70s, before cell phones became a norm or a necessity.) While traversing the countryside and waiting to hear back from their employer, the pair are involved in an accident with a British gentleman that ends up bringing them back to his manor house... where it soon becomes apparent that the accident was no accident and that Maggie was brought to England to fulfill an ancient legacy that might cost her not only her life, but her soul as well...

To start off, don't expect Dante from this book. (I'm guessing that most of you aren't, just from looking at the cover.) This book is pretty much the epitome of the pulp horror novel of the 70s and 80s that graced the bookshelves of many stores and sparked the horror love of many a reader. It's also a movie adaptation of a Sam Elliott movie by the same name, which also starred his lovely wife Katharine Ross. (It also features a rather lovely scene of Elliott's derriere, which I'm sure was much to the delight of many a theater patron.)

The characters are somewhat thin at times and unfortunately the most interesting characters, five other guests with ties to the owner of the manor house, are introduced and later used as the inevitable horror movie cannon fodder. They're introduced enough to really give you a good idea of their personalities, but I can't help but want to have seen more of them. This is actually something that you get with a lot of books that are adapted from movies- they tend to sometimes only show as much as you see on the screen.

Legacy's plot is the real gem here, as it's incredibly hard to mess up the idea of a sinister legacy and murders in the beautiful English countryside. Just like the idea of a graveyard by the Louisiana Bayou, the foggy English manor house is a staple of horror books and novels that brings up an immediate atmosphere. Coyne makes the most of this with the short amount of pages that are within the book.

The bottom line here is that if you're a fan of older horror books, this is an absolute must read. It's a fun and semi-campy read with a great ending. It really makes me want to watch the Elliott movie, and not so I can watch him get naked. (Although I admit that it doesn't deter me from the movie either...)

4 out of 5 stars


  1. I was asked to write it (six weeks) to promote the movie and they spend (Hollywood $$$) to make it ‘briefly’ a best seller.
    I had just published The Piecing and went onto write about 6 horror/occult novels in the ‘70s…
    That market has just about disappeared. Also, I ran out of ideas, thought after writing all sorts of other books, I’m working on a new terror/horror novel now.



  2. Oh wow!! I got *the* John Coyne responding to my review!!

    It's a shame that they made you rush it since you do have a good base here. I'm a bit sad that the horror/occult market has been running so thin lately. I've been out of it for a while since I've been focusing more on mystery and urban fantasy, but when I was a kid I absolutely adored this sort of stuff. You just can't beat the pulp horror novels of the 70s and 80s. It's a time period where everything was more new and you don't get the "reboot" feeling that you do with stuff nowadays. You get some gems to be sure, but everything just has that "been there, done that" feel to it. (sighs)

    You'll have to keep me posted on your new work! I'd love to be able to blog about it!!