Originally published in 1971, The Exorcist, one of the most controversial novels ever written, went on to become a literary phenomenon: It spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, seventeen consecutively at number one. Inspired by a true story of a child’s demonic possession in the 1940s, William Peter Blatty created an iconic novel that focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. A small group of overwhelmed yet determined individuals must rescue Regan from her unspeakable fate, and the drama that ensues is gripping and unfailingly terrifying. Two years after its publication, The Exorcist was, of course, turned into a wildly popular motion picture, garnering ten Academy Award nominations. On opening day of the film, lines of the novel’s fans stretched around city blocks. In Chicago, frustrated moviegoers used a battering ram to gain entry through the double side doors of a theater. In Kansas City, police used tear gas to disperse an impatient crowd who tried to force their way into a cinema. The three major television networks carried footage of these events; CBS’s Walter Cronkite devoted almost ten minutes to the story. The Exorcist was, and is, more than just a novel and a film: it is a literary landmark. Purposefully raw and profane, The Exorcist still has the extraordinary ability to disturb readers and cause them to forget that it is “just a story.” Newly polished and added to by the author and published here in this beautiful fortieth anniversary edition, it remains an unforgettable reading experience and will continue to shock and frighten a new generation of readers.
Despite watching hundreds of horror movies over my lifetime, The Exorcist remains my all-time favorite horror film and my go-to scary movie that I always pull out this time of year. It scared the hell out of me the first time I watched it and continues creeping me out today, which is something no other movie can do. However, I am ashamed to say that despite seeing the movie more times than I can remember, I never bothered reading the book. After winning a gift card and noticing that the 40th anniversary edition of the book was only $2, I thought I’d give it a go.
I bought the book on a Thursday and due to other reading commitments, I couldn’t get to it until Friday. About 20 minutes in, I was bored half to death. Really. The Grim Reaper was standing over me smiling, just waiting for me to get a little more bored so he could take me to…well, where I am going is no one’s concern but my own.
Let me explain, I’ve seen the movie. A lot. The beginning part of the film bores me too, so it is no surprise that the first part of the book made me want to sleep since it is longer and more drawn out than the film. I trudged through the scenes in Iraq, but it just wasn’t doing it for me.
I went on Audible and was excited to learn that The Exorcist was an audiobook, but devastated when I found out the author narrated the book. Let’s face it, with the exception of Todd Brown, Eric Shelman and a couple of others, authors narrating their own books instead of hiring a professional usually turns out badly.
I had a credit to use and figured what the hell? I bought the audiobook, began listening to the author, William Peter Blatty narrate the book, and was completely blown away. Blatty does a remarkable job narrating each character and the voice he uses as the demon was terrifying. My favorite character narration was that of Lieutenant Kinderman. As you listen, you forget you’re hearing a story and feel like you’re standing there in the middle of a conversation with Kinderman and the other characters. It’s really quite incredible.
As I listened, I realized that Blatty is a natural. It’s too bad he only narrated a couple of books because I would pay good money to hear him narrate many more books that I would otherwise pass up, Although he’s not my favorite narrator, he adds incredible depth to the characters along with a palpable sense of terror and dread. For a truly spellbinding and scary listen this Halloween season, check this one out.