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The Auctioneer by Joan Samson

The Auctioneer (1975)

by Joan Samson

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This is a story about an idyllic but poor small town that is invaded by a self-serving, demoniac auctioneer who starts taking everything from the townspeople. It starts slow but gradually builds in intensity as the family at the center of the story, the Moores, become more and more desperate. Really, this is about tensions between rural and urban America, between the old ways and the new ways, and the invasion of the countryside by entitled outsiders who only want to destroy what is idyllic about it. I think it reflects the fears of the time it was written, and in a different way, the fears of today as well. ( )
  sturlington | Jan 24, 2019 |
A subtle masterwork in the field of suspense thrillers. It is one of 20th century literature's greatest tragedies that Joan Samson died so young and left only this brilliant piece of fiction in her wake.
Many reviewers have compared this work (and Samson by extension) to Shirley Jackson and I can certainly see the similarities, though THE AUCTIONEER truly possesses its own voice.

This book manages to capture that mystical sweet-spot of pacing that incorporates a slow burn plot with a brisk, page-turning narrative. The characterizations are frustratingly well-realized, the true-to-life menace presented evocatively, and the moral of the tale remains eerily prescient today. ( )
2 vote Daninsky | Aug 19, 2017 |
A good old fashioned horror story from the 70's with none off the gratuitous sex and violence offered in so many publications today and sometimes that is no bad thing in fact at times quite refreshing. Set in a small New Hampshire town of Harlowe the story revolves around a hard working farmer John Moore, his wife Miriam (Mim) and their four year old daughter Hildie. This is a close-knit community where families and friends share their lives, loves,problems and successes. Into this environment steps Perly Dunsmore "The Auctioneer" who spends his time convincing the locals to donate products/items to the local weekly auction all proceeds of which will benefit the community. However as befits all good horror tales nothing is ever quite that simple and it soon becomes clear that Dunsmore has a hidden agenda, and by means of mafia type intimidation hopes to acquire power and riches beyond his wildest dreams.

The locals find themselves in a downward spiral as everything they worked for and paid with sweat and toil is taken by this evil impostor. It is quite easy to draw parallels between dictators such as Hitler or Stalin and in some ways to understand how the charisma and persuasive powers of such individuals can impact on the lives of simple country folks going about their daily tasks in an open and honest fashion. As we head towards an exciting conclusion it is clear that Perly Dunsmore hopes to strip every Harlowe resident of their worldly possessions....unless of course the good people can eradicate this evil before it is too late.... ( )
1 vote runner56 | May 30, 2016 |
I'm not entirely sure what all that was about. It was a story, I enjoyed it well enough, but there wasn't a whole lot of *there* there. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Sep 14, 2014 |
Part horror, part social commentary (that may be redundant) the story covers a lot of ground in a fairly brief book. It offers a look at people's ties to the land, greed, corruption, pride and a lot more.

The story is set in a small rural town, where generations of families have grown up as neighbors and have shared each other's history. But things begin to unravel when a stranger rolls into town and begins to hold auctions. First, the auctions are purportedly meant to raise money to increase a police force of one (that doesn't need increasing). Then the police force continues to increase as does the auctioneer's influence over the town.

Without giving too much away, I found myself drawing parallels between this book and the rise of the Third Reich - scary stuff indeed. ( )
2 vote Sean191 | Apr 30, 2012 |
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This extraordinary novel takes its place with such memorable literary masterpieces as Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" as a compelling story of evil, set against a rock-hard, brilliantly rendered New England background.

Harlowe, New Hampshire, is a rural township still isolated from the pressures and changes of the second half of the twentieth century. It is here that John Moore works the land farmed by his family for centuries, here that he lives with his wife and daughter, and here that he expects to die when his life's work is done. But from the moment that a magnetic stranger named Perly Dunsmore arrives in the community and begins a series of auctions to raise money for the growth of the local police force, the days of John Moore's freedom and independence are suddenly numbered.

Page after page, the reader is trapped with John Moore in the grip of chilling horror as he is relentlessly stripped of his possessions, his ability to resist, his courage, and his hope by the ever-growing power and demands of the auctioneer. What was initially a minor nuisance, then an infuriating intrusion, now becomes for John Moore a desperate, seemingly doomed battle against a force that has already corrupted all of Harlowe and is now systematically destroying it.

On one level, The Auctioneer is a triumph of subtle, spellbinding narrative artistry; on another, it represents a devastating commentary on the omnivorous commercial forces of our age. Ultimately, it stands as a modern yet eternal morality drama that pits human weakness against human strength, the vulnerability of the flesh against the unquenchable spark of resistance that lies at the core of the human spirit. Above all, from its ominous opening to its shattering climax, The Auctioneer is an unforgettable reading experience.

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