By Bryan Zepp Jamieson
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.
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.