Dead Man #7: The Beast Within

Beast Withn FinalThe seventh volume in the DEAD MAN series, James Daniels' THE BEAST WITHIN, is now available from Amazon. The series is about Matt Cahill, a guy who inexplicably came back from the dead and can now see a nightmarish netherword that nobdoy else does…and pursues an evil entity known as Mr. Dark.

In this novel, Matt Cahill journeys deep into the Northern Michigan woods searching for a militaristic community that's led by a paranoid visionary… a man who claims to have defeated an entity eerily similar to Mr. Dark. This could be Matt's chance to solve the riddle of his nightmarish quest. But things go very wrong very fast… and soon he's trapped in a bloody siege between warring factions. The only way to escape from an unstoppable advance of mayhem, carnage and black magic is to trust his instincts, grab his ax, and unleash the ferocity of the Beast Within.

James has given some serious thought to who, and what, Mr. Dark might be…and I thought I'd share his take with you:

Who is Mr. Dark?

The straight-forward answer is that he's Matt's nemesis…a taunting, supernatural entity who spreads evil like a disease with just a touch of his finger. Mr. Dark is also, perhaps, the only one who knows the reasons behind his Matt's resurrection from the dead. But Mr. Dark is much more than that. But what, exactly? That's the question that every author is tackling and each one is coming up with their own, intriguing interpretation. 

Lee and Bill have been enormously generous letting the writers contribute to the development of the Dark Man's nature. And it's interesting, because–like Matt's character–the Dark Man is an archetype that's incredibly versatile. A blogger recently implied that Lee and Bill may have borrowed the evil-clown idea from Todd McFarlane's Spawn series. 

But this is nonsense. The wicked, unpredictable trickster is one of the oldest characters in fiction. McFarlane's Violator was begat by Stephen King's Pennywise who was begat by Jerry Robinson's The Joker, who was begat by Edgar Allen Poe's Hop-Toad, who was begat by Mr. Punch, who was begat by Shakespeare's Fool, who was begat by Malory's Merlin, who was begat by the Loki, who was begat by Raven (Europe), Coyote (America), and Spider (Africa). They are all manifestations of the same principle. 

What is that principle? Every writer of the Dead Man will come to his or her own conclusions. 

For myself, that principle is entropy, and the madness and despair that arise from our recognition that all our efforts will ultimately end in death. The major challenge of life is to withstand–and maybe even overcome–that terrible prospect. In the Welsh Grail legend Peredur, the hero is frequently tormented by a black hag who reminds him at every turn that all his acts of valor are causing more harm than good. That hag, portrayed eight hundred years ago, is the direct ancestor of Mr. Dark. And you don't have to be a medieval knight errant to know who she is. I've seen her. And I bet you have, too. 

How we deal with her terrible message is the biggest challenge that we face in life. And one of the ways we learn to deal with it is by reading about others who confront it head-on. Matt Cahill is a hero because he does just that. That's why it's a thrill to read about him. That's why, when we read about him beating the devil, we set down the book hopeful and happy, believing–for a time-–that we can, too.


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