The Hellfire Club

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Peter Straub published his first book, of poetry, ISHMAEL, in 1972. Straub was determined to become a writer, but he was unsure on what course to follow. After publishing another collection of poetry in 1972, Straub decided to try his hand at writing fiction. His first attempts at fiction were not commercially successful. It was not until 1979 with the publication of GHOST STORY that Straub joined the ranks of best-selling authors. With GHOST STORY, he had proven that he could write tension-packed popular horror thrillers with the best of them. Since then, each new Straub novel has been eagerly awaited by an ever-growing loyal readership. Some of his most noteworthy novels include FLOATING DRAGON (1983), THE TALISMAN (1984, with Stephen King), KOKO (1988), MYSTERY (1990), and THE THROAT (1993). Since KOKO, Straub has moved away from writing strictly supernatural horror novels and has concentrated more on writing intricate suspense thrillers.

THE HELLFIRE CLUB continues Straub’s development as a more multifaceted suspense novelist. At the center of the novel is Nora Chancel and her struggle to survive against all odds. Living in Connecticut with her husband, Davey, Nora Chancel would be thought to have the ideal life. Unfortunately, troubling memories of when she was a combat nurse in Vietnam and difficulties with her marriage have unsettled Nora. In addition, there have been four women recently murdered, which has only added tension to the situation. While her publisher husband is obsessed with his most popular author, Hugo Driver, and Driver’s novel NIGHT JOURNEY, Nora becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of another woman. This woman had had an affair with Davey and the police are frustrated with the lack of hard evidence that they have discovered so far. The real serial killer, Dick Dart, boldly kidnaps Nora at the police station. Dart turns out to be a very stylish, yet brutal, abductor. Nora is forced to muster all of her survival skills in order that she not become Dart’s next victim. While the plot twists, on occasion, hinder the pace of THE HELLFIRE CLUB, for the most part the novel is a first-rate thriller and will certainly add to Straub’s reputation.