G. K. Chandler – God Told Me To
Posted by demonik on July 25, 2007
G. K. Chandler – God Told Me To (Ballatine, 1976)
Based on a screenplay by Larry Cohen.
A Child is born. A wave of murder has begun. Is it the final warning?
I’ve not seen the film and that might be an advantage. This is very enjoyable so far.
New York. Teenager Harold Gorman, previously of good character, climbs to the top of a water tower and opens fire on the crowd. He’s a rubbish shot but kills fourteen people.
Lt. Detective Peter Nicholas risks his own life to climb the tower and talk the sniper down. The mania has passed now and Gorman comes quietly. When Nicholas asks him why he did it, he smiles, says “God told me to” and leaps to his doom.
Meanwhile downtown, John Fletcher, mechanic, goes berserk in a supermarket and fatally stabs a number of customers. Afterwards, sat in a puddle of blood, he calmly waits for the police to arrest him. One of their number comes over all trigger happy and shoots him three times. Fletcher should be dead, but he hangs on just long enough to explain his actions.
Thirty-something Nicholas is a deeply religious Catholic. He’s still pissed that they’ve done away with the Latin Mass His wife Martha is a drunk and they’ve been separated for some years but his faith won’t permit divorce and he still calls in on her, never really knowing why. His girlfriend, Casey is a very understanding woman by the looks of things and puts up with his bombing it into a church at every opportunity. He’s never questioned his faith until now.
“When Jesus came on the earth. He came as a God of Love. And he was mur – crucified. Suppose he came back again as a God of Hate? … Father, suppose God, like everyone else, learns from experience.”
An edge came into the priest’s voice. “Be careful, son. You are approaching heresy.”
Now that he had begun, Nicholas went eagerly ahead.
“The Old Testament is full of blood and fury. According to these scriptures, God has murdered and maimed people He’s created since the dawn of time.”
“The Devil! You are speaking of the Devil”
“Father. We have always overlooked one possibility. Suppose God and the Devil are the same.”
“Leave here!” the priest shrilled. “I won’t hear this. You are not seeking absolution.”
Anyhow, Nicholas has some ill-defined hunches about these murders and persuades the deputy commissioner to assign him the case. Hendriks gives him a week and partners him with the thoroughly corrupt Jordan who’s just upset the local drug baron. While they’re still trying to prove that the two incidents are connected, another law-abiding citizen flips, deliberately runs down a bunch of kids on a School crossing ….
A minor breakthrough. The detectives learn that, prior to committing their murders, the killers were seen in the company of a handsome young blonde guy/ “faggot albino” in a robe. Mrs. Gorman puts a name to him – Bernard Phillips. Nicholson learns that, ten years ago when he was just eleven, Bernard’s parents killed themselves, the only explanation given for their suicide being the note left by his mother – “God told me to”. Bernard has since married, and Nicholson traces Mrs. Phillips to a Washington Heights address. She opens the door stark naked and comes at him with a razor.
Part II, the aptly named Obsession, and Nicholas is losing it. Severely slashed about the face and arm by the late Mrs. Phillips, his findings now point toward a ‘Jesus is an E.T.’ theory which goes down well with his boss. Hendriks ‘recommends’ that he take a holiday, and even his crooked colleague sympathises – he’s been working with a decent cop and he’s not feeling so good about himself. Nicholson takes a room in the sleaziest block in the neighbourhood and contacts cynical editor Emile Lukas who cleverly exploits the ‘Voice of God murders’ for all the copy they’re worth. When a drug-lord murders Jordan and paints ‘God’ on the wall in his victim’s blood, New York is reduced to a panic. Nicholson, meanwhile, holds up a liquor store, goes back to his cheap shit room and waits for the emissaries of the Second Coming (or whoever it is) to contact him ….
It’s a slick read but, to be frank, it lost me for a while there with all the alien insemination = virgin birth theorizing, and the crucial revelation about Nicholas – it comes very late in the day – turns the story all screwy and skewed. The confrontation between the cop and God Mk. II in a rotting block is well-handled, though you wonder why the supreme being doesn’t just kill him rather than show off all his party pieces. On the plus side, this sequence briefly introduces some Herbert-esque rats for the most horrible moment since the senseless murders in the early chapters.