March 31, 2010


In his new novel, 'The Exorcist' author balances philosophy and thrills: William Peter Blatty's 'Dimiter' enfolds a message of faith in a fast-paced thriller set in the Holy Land -- just in time for Easter. (Nick Owchar, April 1, 2010, LA Times)

More than 13 million copies, according to some estimates, have been sold in the United States alone. Several more novels -- and films -- followed, giving Blatty more opportunities to explore the workings of divine redemption and demonic evil. His new novel, "Dimiter," published in March, is similarly preoccupied with good and evil, with the mysterious and the miraculous, although it is also something of a departure.

Set in the 1970s, "Dimiter" introduces us, in a riveting opening scene, to an enigmatic inmate in an Albanian prison during the gray days of Enver Hoxha's regime. The man coolly withstands unbearable torture and then escapes, vanishing like a phantom . . . only to later turn up in the Holy Land. He becomes a shadowy presence in the lives of several people, including an Arab Christian policeman and a Jewish doctor, both of whom puzzle over several mysterious deaths somehow linked to this figure, who is named Paul Dimiter.

If you look more closely, the story also makes a sly, theological nod to the essential mystery of the Gospels that Christians everywhere will celebrate on Sunday: the Resurrection. Blatty has taken a message of religious faith and enfolded it within a fast-paced plot for a basic reason.

"I had to make a page-turner," he says, "or else who would want to read it?"

The demonic is a hot commodity today, but don't try to credit Blatty as the elder statesman of this surge in horror movies, books and TV shows. He wants no part of it.

"When I look around the culture, it makes me want to projectile vomit," he says, recalling that infamous moment in "The Exorcist." "The more blood, the more chain saws, the better. The studios have so debased the tastes of kids that that's all the kids want now."

This might sound strange coming from the author of a story associated with harrowing uses of puke, spinning heads and a crucifix, but Blatty's brand of horror has always been about more than shock effect. Characters wrestle with metaphysical doubts even as the bodies pile up.

Some people forget the philosophy -- just as studio execs forgot Blatty's abilities as a comic writer after "The Exorcist."

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2010 5:28 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus