Becoming David by Phil Sloman
Richard leads a simple, uncomplicated life in the suburbs of London where anonymity is a virtue. His life has a routine. His cleaner visits twice a week and he works out in his basement, where occasionally he kills people.
Everything is as Richard wants it until David enters his life. What happens next changes his whole existence and the lives of those around him. Is he able to trust anything to be true? And will he be able to escape David or will David take over his life completely?
When we first meet Richard, he appears to be entirely average. He works from home living a quiet existence, and the only obvious quirk of his personality is his love of precision and order. It swiftly becomes evident however, that there is a little more to Richard than meets the eye. His tidy little life masks the fact that he enjoys nothing better than killing.
Richard, using his tried and tested method of stalking potential victims, meets an ideal candidate in the form of David. Everything appears to be playing out exactly the way it always has in the past, but Richard is about to find himself on the receiving end of torture for a change. David’s presence in Richard’s life is entirely Richard’s own doing, but almost immediately, Richard loses the upper hand in their relationship. David switches from being the victim to the victor, as a war of attrition between the two characters begins.
The turmoil that Richard begins to experience in his battle with David is primarily internal. Watching as his character unravels is fascinating stuff, especially when you appreciate how controlled and meticulous he was prior to meeting his new foe. It makes Richard’s descent into madness feel that much more tragic. As tragic as a serial killer losing his mind can be anyway. It’s impressive that Sloman manages to make the reader almost empathise with Richard. I can’t remember when I’ve ever felt sorry for a sociopath.
The character of David is particularly interesting, he could easily be viewed in a number of different ways. I’m not going to say much more than that however, for fear of spoilers. I don’t want to ruin the best surprise.
I think some of the best horror I’ve read falls squarely into what I would describe as the psychological bracket. Becoming David is a perfect example of this. There is nothing massively overt or external in this story. Though it is true that characters, die this is overshadowed by the inner horror that the main character experiences.
Becoming David works so well because it is a short, sharp shock of a novella. Sloman does a good job with his characterisation and keeps things uncomplicated, I like this approach. The whole narrative revolves around just Richard and David. This is exactly what makes this story so effective.
Becoming David is published by Hersham Horror and is available now. I’ll be looking out for more work by Phil Sloman in the future.