by James Herbert. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990. 319 pages.
Ostensibly a “horror” novel, in terms of mood and structure Creed more closely resembles a pulp-noir in which our “protagonist” (Joe Creed), a morally-ambivalent (to be generous) paparazzo, is contacted not to solve a mystery or provide protection, but to stay away—to keep out of affairs—after he witnesses a few supernatural occurances that weren’t meant for his eyes. Many of the other customary figures and situations (the femme-fatale, our “hero” suffering a beating, plenty of hard alcohol) typical of the genre make appearances.
Joe Creed is the best paparazzo around, he gets the shots others can’t, and he has the balls, experience, and sly nature to outwit his lesser and usually younger peers. He is respected, if not liked. One day in a cemetary photographing the burial of a famous actress Creed gets shots of an unknown figure performing obscene acts over the grave. Shortly thereafter his house is burglered, threats are made, and it is clear that Mr. Uknown wants Creed’s shots destroyed, but by the time Creed decides to “get out,” our mysterious malefactors are no longer satisfied with the photos; terrorizing Creed is at the top of their list. A string of events that our cynical protagonist prefers to label hallucinations rather than supernatural leads him to distrust his senses, and when this is combined with an ironic, playful, and conversational narrator, the reader becomes unsure whether to believe Creed or those trying to help him.
Creed is, to an extent, a meta-horror novel, which makes an unbelieving paparazzo stuck in a mini-mystery curiously appropriate. That our villains are linked to Nosferatu, Aleister Crowley, and other horrors more medieval in nature, who consider the current crop of horror villains anemic, only further leads one to the conclusion that Creed is partly a meditation on the genre. Those looking for a thrill will also find a few Herbert-ian scenes, including blood-engorged bugs and a grotesque mucous-woman. Like most books by Herbert, Creed is a quick and entertaining read; don’t feel the need to seek it out, but if you come across it, it’s worth your time.