by Margaret St.Clair
We Shaverites tend to credit much of the 20th Century's post-WWII "Inner Earth literature" to Shaver. However, there has been a long line of authors writing in this vein. And one of those authors -- Margaret St.Clair -- joined their ranks when she published her 1969 underearth novel "The Shadow People."
Sure, the world she decribed was pilfered from the Shaver Mystery handbook; and to make things even more interesting, she called her protagonist "Dick." Coincidence??? One wonders.
"Thoughts draw them. They are sensitive, they pick up something from us, they can track us by our thoughts as dogs can track by scent...And yet, for all their sensitivity, there could scarcely exist beings more primitive, rude, nearer to the archaic clay ..." (from Chapter 1).
Hey! Wait just a minute! Can these be deros? Nawww, just elves. In St.Clair's underworld, there are three types of elves, not just dero and tero. And her story doesn't begin in a Ford auto plant in Detroit, but in Berkeley, California (where else?).
St.Clair's unassuming, simply-written style, which at first seems blah blah blah I might add, is overtaken by an infectious storyline within a chapter or two. Once the third or fourth chapters rolled by, this reviewer -- that would be me, Figbar Tobar -- was hooked by the author's detailed description of not only elfen life in the underworld, but also the physical details of the underworld itself, and what it does to its denizens. I was compelled to keep turning the pages, thanks to St. Clair's ability to weave a good yarn, and my own desire to ferret out similarities to Shaver's own vision of the underworld.
One thing "The Shadow People" has that the SM does not is a hallucinagenic food that the elves eat. This substance keeps them confined, to a degree, to the underworld. Yet, there are half breed types -- elf-humans -- who seem able to roam upper and lower worlds. Like Shaver's secret basement elevators (the ones that trasported surface dwellers to their doom in the deros' gruesome underworld) St.Clair depicts the portals to underearth as a maze of cellars and caverns, which our hero, Dick must navigate to find his kidnapped girlfriend.
Once Dick gets back to the surface world, it goes back to a little blah blah blah again, until the ending which I won't give away (but ends up in Berkeley). Find out for yourself by reading this classic, freaky tale from the genre of underworld literature. In my home country of Lithuania it is difficult some times to find such books, but thanks to the intenets, we have ways now.
Figbar gives two thumbs-up-topside for this one. Since this book was published in 1969, you won't find it in bookstores, but it is readily available online at AbeBooks.com