The Peace Corps in its long history has attracted more than a few non-RPCVs to write about us! Most of the books have been non-fiction, and serious attempts at evaluating the worth and worthiness of what we are all trying to do. I’m thinking of Robert Textor’s Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps, MIT Press, (1966) and All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960, Harvard University Press, (1998.)
Then there are the novels! One of my favorite is by Tama Janowitz, entitled A Cannibal in Manhattan about an RPCV who brings her cannibal husband home to New York City, with dire consequences for all. (Crown 1987).
There are other novels. Carter Coleman’s The Volunteer, published in 1998 and set in East Africa; Richard Dooling’s masterful White Man’s Grave, from Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998. That is set in West Africa!
Most of the early “Peace Corps books” were YAs novels or humorous takes on the experience. In 1966, William Sayres wrote, Do Good that Holt, Rinehart & Winston published. It was a comic novel about a Peace Corps reject to Colombia. I think Sayres might have been involved with the training of early PCVs for Colombia. A few of the YA books were Sharon Spencer’s Breaking the Bonds: A novel about the Peace Corps, with a foreword by Sargent Shriver, Grosset & Dunlap, 1963; Josephine James (pseud.) Kathy Martin: Peace Corps Nurse—African Adventure, Golden Press 1965; Karla Wiley’s Assignment: Latin America: A Story of the Peace Corps, a novel published in 1968 by David McKay.
Now, I think, we have come full circle. The Jinn is the ‘first’ horror novel that uses Peace Corps Volunteers as victims. As an ‘old’ (in more ways than one!) writer of horror/occult fiction, I spotted this novel (just published) the other day. It was written by Stephen Guth.
No, Guth has never been a PCV, but that never stopped any writer.
Here’s the plot:
Three American women fresh out of college join the Peace Corps and travel together to Morocco. While living with their host family in the ancient border city of Oujda-known as the City of Fear for its bloody past-the women become ensnared in the supernatural world of the Jinn. These most feared demons of Islam, the Jinn, existed before man and live on Earth in a world parallel and normally unseen to mankind. Jealous of both man and angels, the lesser Jinn are commanded by Sakhr, servant to Iblis the Shaitan, to harvest souls of mankind in the Jinn’s quest for power and revenge.
In ancient times, King Solomon was entrusted with a powerful signet ring given to him by the Archangel Michael. With the ring, King Solomon commanded the elements and the spirit-world. After the demon Sakhr sought to dethrone King Solomon, the King entombed Sakhr in a chest and sealed it with the five-pointed star of his signet ring-the Seal of Solomon. The King ordered the chest cast into a deep cave in a distant land far from Jerusalem.
The powerful ring has since been lost to history.
Since the earliest of times and still to this day, the Jinn go to the lowest heaven and eavesdrop on angels discussing events of the future which they heard from God. The angels intensely guard the heavens from the Jinn, using meteor showers to attack any who try to eavesdrop.
One morning, following an evening where the women experienced the most shooting stars in their lives, they visit Oujda’s old city market, the Souk Melilla. Just beyond the twelfth-century city walls and the ancient gate of Bab Sidi Abdelouahab-called the Gate of the Heads from when heads of invaders were displayed on the gate-the women explore the bazaar-like marketplace.
On an impulse, the women visit an old fortune teller to predict their futures. The sage predicts horrific encounters for the women and claims that one among them has attracted the attention of the Jinn who seek to free their master Sakhr.
As the women encounter the terror of the Jinn and each face their fiery destinies, one woman is aided by an unexpected ally to fight the Jinn. Her search to defeat the Jinn leads to the crypts of saints in the oasis of Sidi Yahia and the haunted catacombs of the Beni-Snassen mountains. Will she come to terms with her secret past and survive the wrath of the Jinn?
According to Stephen Guth, in email exchanges with him, “Much of what is described in The Jinn actually exists in reality or in legend. In many ways, The Jinn is a story that was just waiting to be discovered and told. I was merely a scrivener, creating the fictional characters and linking them to the story that unfolded before me.”
While this is his first horror novel, and Guth has never been in the Peace Corps, he nevertheless has an impressive CV. He is an attorney in the Washington, DC area who has a doctorate, served in the army with the Special Operations Command, and worked for international Fortune 100 companies. It is only on weekend that he writes horror fiction. Check out his websites and the novel at: www.TheJinn.com and www.StephenGuth.com
As Stephen King once joked with me, “there’s room for everyone and anything in horror writing.”