The Primal Screamer: A Review in Electric Review

The Primal Screamer

By Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Electric Review

Nick Blinko, one of the more innovative voices of the punk-anarchist movement in the UK during the Thatcher era, picked a singularly well-trodden format for his novel, Primal Screamer.

In this Gothic horror, Blinko employs the device of having an independent observer keep a diary of a troubled patient who seems to be descending irrevocably into madness. This is a trope that dates back to the days of Poe and Lovecraft, and was seen more recently in Stephen King’s N. The story follows a familiar pattern, with the patient descending deeper into insanity and strangeness, and it being more apparent as time went on that this is more than just a routine case of schizophrenia.

Inevitably, the observer is changed by the action of observing, the old reverse Heisenberg, and he is drawn into the madness.

The narrator, a psychiatrist named Rodney H. Dweller, recounts the story of Nathaniel Snoxell (“That’s perfect iambic pentameter!” exclaims Dweller). Blinko infuses what would otherwise be a rather shopworn manuscript with flashes of brilliant black humor, and has a deft touch at pacing and tone, creating an agreeable sensation of dread. He does a good job of making his narrator a perfect reflective instrument, and the reader doesn’t even learn the narrator’s name until after his denouement. The environment of the story, a decaying and despondent society in Thatcherite Britain, similarly reflects and enhances the story neatly.

The story is illustrated with Blinko’s own art, specializing in the grotesque and macabre.

Back to Nick Blinko’s Author Page