By Guy N. Smith
Guy N Smith's The Master was
first published in 1988 and is a little over 200 pages long. On the
front cover of the book, underneath the title, there is a single
sentence that says: 'Dark, Satanic Evil Haunts The Scottish Highlands.'
I think that those few words might give you a good idea of what to
expect should you ever decide to read the book.
has two main characters, Ann Rawsthorne and Phil Cumbes. They
are both teachers at Hurst College, an exclusive boarding
school that has the kind of fees that make it affordable only to the
rich. It is also apparent that the parents who send their children to
Hurst are probably more concerned with getting them out of the way than
with their education.
The reader meets Ann in the first chapter and finds her attending an
interview for a position at Hurst. Ann doesn't expect to get
the job and after meeting the headmaster, Mr Lazenby, who is rather a
sinister fellow, and seeing what a bleak and depressing place the
school is, Ann is not so sure that she even wants the job. It is good
money though, so she would be a fool if she didn't take the job if it
was offered to her.
Money talks and chapter two finds Ann sitting on the staff bench and
watching the Hurst football team take a beating on the pitch. It's
winter, it's cold, and she hates football, but at Hurst the headmaster
expects his staff to turn out and show their support to the team. More
than this, he expects his team to win. Loosing is
not acceptable as far as the headmaster is concerned and there
is not a pupil, or a teacher, who does not fear his wrath.
Phil Cumbes is Hurst's senior master. Like Ann, Phil is introduced in
chapter one, and there is an almost instant attraction between the two
teachers. This is something that would also be frowned upon by the
headmaster should he become aware of it. The headmaster frowns on many
things. He is a hard man to please. What he values, above all else, is
physical fitness and he expects his pupils to be the elite (think
Hitler trying to build his super-race).
Ann and Phil are in many ways outsiders within the school, and they
have no idea of what is going on behind the scenes, or of the
headmaster's hidden agenda, the origins of which, if they knew where to
look, could be found in the history of Hurst College.
didn't particularly dislike The
Master, but neither did I particularly like it. I found it
a little hard to get into the story at first and sometimes the dialogue
didn't seem very natural. On the positive side, if positive is the
right word, I think that Smith managed to create a very strong
character when he dreamed up Lazenby, the headmaster. He's
intimidating; he's scary, and he's just plain nasty. I can't remember
when I have encountered such a sinister character, the master's evil
oozes from every page. He truly is the stuff of nightmares.