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Book Title: Nightwing|
The author of the book: Martin Cruz Smith
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.67 MB
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Reader ratings: 7.1
Date of issue: 1977
ISBN 13: 9780233969480
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Humans have been telling horror stories around the campfire about the dangers of the creatures of the night probably since before there were campfires. Second only to stories of creation (the “why” and “how” of how we got here), scary bedtime stories (the “what if” of survival in the big bad world) have probably been the most popular form of entertainment for humans. They still are.
Specifically, “Man vs. Nature” horror stories---stories in which Mother Nature shows her dark side and seeks revenge against humanity for its many wrongs against her---have always been popular because they play upon a fear that has never adequately been, nor will ever be, allayed, no matter hard humans have tried: the fear that our place within the natural world is not only fleeting but has, indeed, passed us by.
Like the dinosaurs and many millions of other species in Earth’s history, humanity has outlived its usefulness. We are nearing extinction. We’re just in denial.
The literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, especially, is replete with stories of vengeful nature and nature run amok. It’s no coincidence that the rise of the number of these stories are directly proportional to the rise of industrialization and almost-unstoppable advances in technology and science.
Nowhere is this most prevalent than within the horror genre. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”---arguably the most popular horror novels of their day and the first true “mainstream” novels of the horror genre---are both basically about men whose hubris in defying nature and their crimes against nature invite deadly and tragic consequences.
In “Dracula”, the titular character whose perversions against nature are so vile that nature essentially punishes him by turning him into a vampire: a creature with an insatiable thirst for blood who is destined to never again walk in daylight.
In “Frankenstein”, the protagonist is a scientist who, in the process of playing God, denies his own creation and invites the creature to righteously seek vengeance against a world that he did not ask to be brought into.
Both novels are morality fables about the dangers and deadly consequences of disrespecting nature, but, then again, so are every other horror novel ever written.
In the horror genre, nature is often an unfeeling force with no compassion for humanity. But determining who the “good guy” and the “bad guy” is in man vs. nature stories isn’t always easy.
We are a constant threat to nature’s survival via our rampant ecological devastation, rise of industrialization/mechanization, and so-called “progress”. Nature, which is inherently devoid of moral qualifiers, is nevertheless always (and ironically) personified as Evil. Nature is always being made the villain, whether in the form of birds (Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds”), great white sharks (Peter Benchley’s “Jaws”), or rabid St. Bernard dogs (Stephen King’s “Cujo”).
But is nature the real villain? Even in real life, wild animals are always the ones to blame, whether a gorilla in a zoo or an alligator on a Florida beach. When a child feels the brunt of nature’s indifference, it’s always nature’s fault, but the gorilla and the alligator are simply doing what they’ve been doing forever: marking their territory, protecting the herd, preying on the weak. The result is nonetheless tragic for the child injured or killed, but it’s almost-universally unacceptable to even hint that the destruction of a gorilla or the killing of alligators is equally tragic.
Martin Cruz Smith, a novelist best-known for his mystery series involving Russian police detective Arkady Renko, wrote a creepy little horror novel in 1977 called “Nightwing”. Perhaps riding the wave of popularity of Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel “Jaws”, or perhaps because he simply has a thing for bats, Smith wrote the quintessential novel about a swarm of killer vampire bats.
While the blurbs on the cover make the comparison to Benchley’s “Jaws”, a perfectly reasonable and appropriate comparison, Smith’s novel has more in common with Joe Dante’s movie “Piranha”, which came out a year after “Nightwing” was published.
Benchley’s book was tame compared to the blood and guts of “Nightwing”. Smith was certainly not afraid to be very liberal and graphic in his descriptions of huge vampire bats rending the flesh and muscle of its victims. Us gorehounds thank him for that.
A lot of fascinating but overall diversionary stuff involving Hopi Indian legends and supernatural mythical creatures populate the book, owing to its New Mexico setting on a Hopi reservation. It’s a blatant attempt by Smith to add a mystical element to his story, one that is purposefully undermined by the real message.
The vampire bat attacks are brilliantly written and terrifying stuff, but the real horror lies in the scientific plausibility of the story. Because just when the survivors think they are safe, they succumb to a virulent strain of bubonic plague, of which the vampire bats are unwitting carriers.
The characters in the story are almost stock horror movie tropes: the down-and-out alcoholic cop hero, the brilliant but slightly mad scientist bent on the bats’ destruction, the damsel in distress, and, of course, the corporate CEO villain whose greed and self-interest has led to environmental destruction and ecological mutation that ignited this story of nature run amok.
The moral of the story hardly needs to be stated. It’s the same moral for all these stories, from the horrors of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” to Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”: respect nature. Learn to live WITH nature, not AGAINST it. Stop messing with the environment, or the environment is going to kick our ass.
It’s a moral that has been, and will continue to be, ignored by humanity until the day we breathe our last breath.
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Read information about the authorAKA Simon Quinn, Nick Carter.
Martin Cruz Smith (born Martin William Smith), American novelist, received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He worked as a journalist from 1965 to 1969 before turning his hand to fiction. His first mystery (Gypsy in Amber – 1971) features NY gypsy art dealer Roman Grey and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Nightwing was his breakthrough novel and was made into a movie.
Smith is best known for his series of novels featuring Russian investigator Arkady Renko. Gorky Park, published in 1981, was the first of these and was called "thriller of the '80s" by Time Magazine. It became a bestseller and won the Gold Dagger Award from the British Crime Writers' Association. Renko has also appeared in Polar Star, Red Square, Havana Bay, Wolves Eat Dogs, Stalin's Ghost, and Three Stations.
In the 1970s, Smith wrote Simon Quinn and penned two Slocum adult action westerns as Jake Logan. He also wrote the Nick Carter with Mike Avallone and others.
Martin Cruz Smith now lives in San Rafael, California with his wife and three children.
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