Review: Gideon’s Angel / Author: Clifford Beal / Publisher: Solaris Books / Release Date: Now
Gideon’s Angel is an odd idea for a novel; set in the English Civil War, it details the adventure of Richard Treadwell, an exiled royalist and soldier who gets embroiled in a plot to kill Cromwell and restore monarchy to the land. It all goes wrong when our hero discover that others intend to seat the forces of hell itself on the throne.
17th Century occult horror and adventure intrigue is not a very well served sub-genre, and Clifford Beal tackles the task extremely well; the period is not set-dressing and this tale takes advantage of a unique period of British history to tell a distinctive story. Beal’s style is easy flowing and almost pulp fiction in places. He tells a decent combat scene and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to horror. It’s short, well paced, filled with snappy dialogue and there isn’t a dull moment. It’s dense with action and story, rather than the sort of padding that plagues this sort of semi-historical work.
The colourful personages of the 17th century are also exploited here; expect to see the likes of d'Artagnan turning up for brief cameos, something that only adds flavour to the work. Although the whole story is from Treadwell's perspective, there are plenty of interesting characters throughout, and I was particularly amused by the Ranter Billy Chard, who provides welcome comic relief without ever being a deliberately ridiculous character. The motivations of these not-quite-heroes and the people they come up against are deliciously human and it’s nice to see this sort of occult historical horror in which everyone’s actions seem at the very least justified, rather than being motivated through insanity.
Some of the scenes do feel quite Hammer horror in style and you can almost see what a movie of this novel would be like. As with most action adventure romps, it does feel very busy towards the end and some of the metaphysics and magic are a little ropey. This is unavoidable, however, as many of the supernatural elements are kept deliberately vague in order to allow the story to move forward. It is a good read and very entertaining, and recommended for fans of both horror and Roundheads.