(Reviewed by Sudheer Apte NOV 30, 2003)
"PERSEPOLIS NICOPOIS CARTHAGO LUBYANKA NANKING CAJAMARCA CONSTANINOPLE LEPANTO MEDINA MASADA HIROSHIMA SHILOH... " ---Torgu's Poem of Place Names
Fangland is one of those stories that starts with a normal, ordinary setup with believable characters, and then slowly descends into a series of events that become first vaguely disquieting, then alarming, and finally horrifying. In this, it is no different from much genre horror fiction. But what sets Fangland apart is the way it illuminates modern office life in the television news business, with its minor and major hypocrisies and social conventions. The author John Marks once worked as a producer for the CBS news show 60 Minutes. The novel is written as a narrative interspersed with a few emails and diary entries, which give the story an immediacy and authenticity, while simultaneously commenting on modern life.
A fictional, fairly typical television network in New York, located in a twenty-story building in lower Manhattan, is one of the sites of the action. The protagonist, a young woman named Evangeline Harker, is an associate producer on a news feature show "The Hour," similar to the real-life 60 Minutes. Evangeline is responsible for scouting locations for upcoming stories. She travels to Romania on a short assignment somewhat reluctantly--- she has just accepted a wedding proposal from her boyfriend but will have to now leave him behind in the middle of making arrangements for their wedding.
The story she is planning is about an elusive Eastern European underworld don named Ion Torgu. In hiding from his own government, Torgu is rumored to be in Romania, and Evangeline has managed to find a contact in the country who claims to be able to reach him. But reaching this contact involves flying into Bucharest and then driving into the Transylvanian valley.
By the time she locates the contact, the promised disquieting events have started happening, and the man she meets bears an equally disturbing appearance. The weather takes a turn for the worse, Evangeline's circumstances descend into worrisome peril, and soon it becomes obvious to her that getting her story back to her boss in New York is the least of her problems.
When Evangeline goes missing in Romania, alarm bells ring at network headquarters. She is eventually discovered to be living in a monastery in Transylvania, where she does not seem to remember anything that has happened to her. But some people at the network mysteriously receive emails from her, and soon large crates are delivered from Romania to the headquarters building. Some people think that the sound tapes for all the TV programs are developing a strange virus-like affliction, and one of the journalists is rumored to have scored an exclusive interview with Ion Torgu. Could these things be related?
The location of Transylvania instantly provides obvious parallels with a large body of horror literature, and Marks makes full use of these. But the horror story itself is framed within the story of how the people at the network investigate the horror and finally remember it. There is a corporate reshuffle in progress at the network, and several powerful players' actions are driven by politics. An unusual book, Fangland is both a classic scary story and a sly social commentary.
- Amazon readers rating: from 27 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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About the Author:
John Marks is the former bureau chief of U.S. News & World Report in Berlin, where he lived for five years. He was most recently a producer for 60 Minutes and has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
He holds an MFA from the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Marks lives with his wife, the writer Debra Immergut, his son, Joe, and his dog Ruby in Brooklyn, New York.