While I was in New York I was able to pick up a copy of Jennifer Toth's 'The Mole People', a book I became aware of several years ago when working at Waterstones. Due to the lowly wages I then earned I did not buy a copy but as it is was about people living under New York I noted it as a future purchase and put it on the long 'Books I plan to buy when I have enough money and enough space to house them all' list.
The book is a first hand account of the people Toth (a Los Angeles Times journalist) found living below ground during the 80s in New York City. There they had created pockets of civilisation, linking up to electrical cables and running water while surviving hundreds of feet below the surface of the city. Some used these hidden underground places as convenient stop overs, places for a nights shelter, while others never left the darkness and shunned human interaction. The people living the deepest underground, amid rumours of cannibalism, were called the mole people. They had completely given up their humanity and gone wild.
The interesting thing about this book are not the stories (told in a mix of social journalistic and tight prose) but the fact some of it is now doubted, with skeptics saying that Toth made it all up. There is lots of chatter on the net which covers both sides of the arguments (try here and here), they are many and varied.
I'm sure some of it is embellished, even with the cool, calm collected mind of a journalist (an oxymoron surely) the experience half seen in the darkness of a tunnel, deep under the city are bound to grow in stature with each telling. The underworld has a strange effect on the minds of people. Personally I'm both scared and fascinated by these places below our feet. Over Hogmany we took father down 'Mary Kings Close' where in a group of twenty we sat in darkness as ghost stories were told. Looking at that hidden street from the back of the tour group I could believe anything could happen down in the darkness and in my mind it frequently does.
The Mole People is worth reading if not for the characters, then the encroaching darkness and the heighten sense of threat that she portrays well. Whether real or not, for me doesn't matter.
Also just finished Dark Harvest, a quick frightening read that takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through a brutal world where children must fight against the 'October Boy', a manifestation with a jack 'o' lantern head. Save it for Hallowe'en.
Read this week:
The Mole People by Jennifer Toth
Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge