Greetings, readers. Last time, we looked at Graham Masterton’s initial two Manitou novels and the film adaptation of the first book. But that was not the end of the intertwined destinies of sham occultist Harry Erskine and diabolical medicine man Misquamacus. Masterton has, to date, written three further books on the topic. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Misquamacus next raised his head in 1991’s Burial, though he remains “off-camera” for much of the novel due to being mostly trapped in the Spirit World. Harry Erskine (beginning to feel his age) and Karen Tandy reconnect when a friend of Karen’s suffers an incredible supernatural shock. With Singing Rock dead, Harry calls on his friend Amelia (who died in The Manitou; Masterton attributes her appearance in this and later books to remembering the film version of The Manitou, in which she lived, better than his own novel) for spiritual help; she points him in the direction of a genuine Medium, Martin Vaizey.
Misquamacus possesses Martin, and uses him to murder Karen’s friend in an act of spiritual terrorism; he crams Martin’s arm down her throat, until his hand erupts from her vagina, which he grabs hold of and yanks her inside out, tearing off her pubic hair as a grisly trophy, crowing triumphantly, “Has any warrior ever taken a scalp such as this?”
Inside-out women are soon the least of Harry’s worries, as Misquamacus takes possession of Karen as a hostage, and uses the aid of a ghostly Voodoo bokor by the name of Jonas DuPaul to raise and fuel the Native American god of darkness and all that is unholy, Aktunowihio, which had previously been raised to decimate the 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Aktunowihio is soon dragging people, cars, and entire city blocks into the Spirit World, starting at locations where significant Native American massacres occurred. The ultimate goal is to drag everything of White creation into the Spirit World, leaving the Material Plane free for Native use.
Without Singing Rock, Harry must find another Medicine Man to help him in his battle to save the modern day from Misquamacus’ attacks, and to rescue Karen from the old wonder worker’s evil clutches. The story is fairly bland and easy to put down, to be honest. The Voodoo elements seemed needlessly tacked on to fill space, and the gore and sex is almost overwhelming — the aforementioned “you pulled her muff out her mouth!” sequence, as well as an act of consensual sex between Karen and Harry in which she admits she’s been attracted to him since he first saved her in 1975; and later, using Karen’s body as a fuck-puppet, Misquamacus rapes Harry, forcing him to climax inside Karen that she might conceive an heir for the ghostly Medicine Man. Kinky stuff, I tells ya, and written with all the tender loving care one would expect from a man with as many sex advice manuals to his credit as Masterton.
In 2005, another manitou novel was released, this time with the rather garish title Manitou Blood. A horrifying plague strikes New York City: those infected begin to experience a severe photophobia, the sensation of sunlight on their skin actually feeling like burning. Similarly, they develop a ravenous need to consume fresh human blood. As the death toll skyrockets, Harry Erskine begins to investigate, suspecting a supernatural explanation for this “Vampire Plague.” With the aid of a former Special Forces soldier and the ultra-busty daughter of a Romanian vampire hunter, as well as input from the manitou of Singing Rock, Harry discovers that a spectral Romanian vampire-lord, or svarcolaci, has been raising hordes of lesser vampires, or strigoi, in the Big Apple. Eventually (about two-thirds of the way through the book, to be honest), Harry discovers that his old enemy Misquamacus is behind this — almost literally, as Misquamacus’ weakened spirit is hiding inside that of the svarcolaci in order to influence the material world. Whistling up a tribe of spectral, godly “Monster Hunters” from Native American lore deals with the masses of strigoi, Harry’s Romanian girlfriend puts the svarcolaci to rest, and Harry dismisses Misquamacus with a mystical artifact.
Honestly, this volume was a BIG step up from Burial — and I think a big part of that strength was that I don’t think Manitou Blood began life as a Manitou novel. The fact that Misquamacus doesn’t appear until the third act, and is so easily dealt with is pretty damning, and sure as hell makes HIM look bad — here’s the most powerful magic-user to ever set foot on the North American Continent, and four times now he’s had his spectral ass handed to him by perhaps the biggest bumbler of a white pseudo-mystic to ever live. The vampire material has a great deal of vim and vigor, and honestly reminds me of the original Manitou in the way fresh fiction and ancient mythological lore are woven together.
Curiously, Harry Erskine gives his age here as 43; which would have put him at 5 years old when he first encountered Misquamacus in 1975, though Harry’s such a schmoozy con-artist I can forgive him for lying about his age.
Most recently, in 2010, Masterton came out with Blind Panic; to date, the final Manitou novel. We open on Harry Erskine house-sitting in Miami, and kicking himself for not moving down twenty years earlier. He’s still reading Tarot cards and tea leaves for obscenely wealthy, sex-starved old ladies, though his prices have gone up and he’s quite happily sucking down fruity drinks between clients. Then Amelia gets in touch with him — people all over the country have been mysteriously going blind, including members of Amelia’s own family. Planes are falling from the sky, cars and trucks are piling up on the thru-ways, cats and dogs living together, MASS HYSTERIA! Even the President of the United States is struck blind.
The culprit, of course, is good ol’ Misquamacus, deprived of his ectoplasm following the events of previous books, and forced to “piggy-back” on the spirits of other Native American shamans and chiefs to influence the material world — so, much like Manitou Blood, just without the European spirits. Aiding Misquamacus is an army of demons known as Eye Killers — walking, coffin-like constructs with all the power of the sun in their eyes. It is these monsters that are striking America blind.
While Amelia remains married to “that pickled herring” of a Swede she’d married between Burial and Manitou Blood, a big chunk of the book focuses on the fact that she and Harry still have feelings for each other. She also provides the sole nude scene in the book, where she needs to be naked to perform a ritual to contact Singing Rock in the spirit world. It’s pretty apparent, between descriptions of Amelia’s bust and that of Jennica, the Romanian girl in Manitou Blood, that Masterton likes breasts as much as I do, which is saying something.
Once Misquamacus’ plan is foiled in Blind Panic, then comes the most startling scene in the entire series. Good ol’ Misquamacus approaches Harry, still re-iterating his all-consuming need for revenge on white people in general and Harry in particularly, but then his shoulders slump and he comments quietly that for all Harry’s self-effacement about being a sham of a psychic and a con artist, Harry really is as powerful a wonder-worker as Misquamacus ever was.
As the series wore on, Misquamacus became less and less threatening, and more and more of a cartoonish stereotype (wait, wait, wait — he’s from the Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, but in later books he wears a buffalo skull?), but all of the sudden that simple passage brought a lot of character to the old Wampanoag. Of course, this doesn’t make up for Masterton naming Dr. Ernest Snow’s daughter Meredith Burgess (Dr. Snow having been played in the film by Burgess Meredith).
Overall, the Manitou saga began very strong, and got progressively weaker. Misquamacus ceased to be a threatening enigma and became a cartoon supervillain, while Masterton’s continuity is questionable — characters die in one book and live in the next, ages continually shift and change, Dr. Snow is confined to a wheelchair in Burial and comfortably walking around in Blind Panic. And while Singing Rock was killed during the events of Revenge of the Manitou, Harry later describes him as having died during the events of Burial. Subtle, crawling dread gives way to surrealistically extreme gore sequences and titillating sex scenes. All in all, while later books in the series have moments, they never equal the power of the original Manitou.