The Evil and the Pure
First of all, I will admit something. The cover of this book absolutely terrifies me. It is not a rational fear. After all, what does it show aside from a slightly abstract bandaged figure? Look at it closely and the expression on the face is almost benevolent. There is nothing overtly horrific or gruesome.
Well, who said fear was ever rational? It petrifies me. I never genuinely felt a shiver go up my spine until I saw the cover of Darren Dash’s The Evil and the Pure. In fact, my fear of the cover is so great that I was very relieved to be able to read the book on my Kindle, where I can avoid looking at the cover in perpetuity.
So, you might reasonably ask, why read The Evil and the Pure if the cover is so frightening? Well, for two reasons.
Firstly, like many people I suspect, I am fascinated by the things that frighten me most. For instance, I am absolutely terrified of flying. Not the Superman kind of flying, you understand. If I possessed the power of flight as a super power, I would be up and in the air before you knew it. No, I am scared of flying in airplanes. More to the point, it is not the flying bit I have a problem with, but the crashing. It would be fairer to say that I am afraid of crashing in an airplane. Nonetheless, who do you think is first in line whenever a disaster movie about plane crashes appears in the cinema? Me. Who still avidly follows reports about the missing Malaysian airline? I do. I am fascinated by things that scare me. That is why I read Stephen King, listen to ghost stories and read a Darren Dash book that has one of the scariest covers I have ever seen.
Secondly, because as soon as I saw the name Darren Dash on the cover of this book, something twigged. I realized almost straight away that Darren Dash must be another appealing pseudonym from an author my two eldest children are mad about. I have read several of his books aimed at young adults, and the prospect of reading a more mature tome by the same author was a very appealing one.
It is interesting when writers who are known for one specific genre move into a different one. In a way, it is not unlike the really great performances that can ensue when flamboyant comedy actors take on serious roles, eschewing their trademark excesses to produce performances that are remarkable for their restrained intensity. Think Jim Carey in The Truman Show, for instance.
Anyway, back to The Evil and the Pure. My thoughts on the cover are likely to have given the wrong impression. This is not a horror novel, not even in the minimalist sense. The Evil and the Pure tells the story of several characters whose lives intersect in London’s gangland underworld. It is a thoughtful and enthralling examination of a society that is seedy, corrupt and painfully uncompromising.
Darren Dash is a skillful writer, whose greatest talent lies in his depictions of character. Few writers can so easily and powerfully communicate the complexities of people dragged into a world of darkness and despair. The villains in The Evil and the Pure, exemplified most strongly by the terrifying Gawl McCaskey, can be despicable beyond imagining. The heroes, on the other hand, are multilayered and fascinating. In between are the characters that float between the two extremes, people helplessly adrift in the grim world Darren Dash has created.
I will not forget The Evil and the Pure easily. Its images and characters have been floating around in my head since I finished it. It is well worth reading. Nonetheless, be warned. This book is not for young readers or for the faint of heart. It is not a horror novel, as I said, but the society it portrays is every bit as horrific as one. On the other hand, it is sometimes very moving and has a spiritual element that is both unexpected and engaging.
I hope Darren Dash makes further incursions into the world of grown-up literature. I would also like to see him taking on even more varied genres. The results could be even more interesting.