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Vampire bats Evil CleverDeadlyDriven by blood hunger across the American landscape they bred and multiplied unseen and unsuspected each one a grisly messenger of death No warm blooded creature is safe from their thirst Now as darkness gathers the sky is filled with the frantic motion the maddening murmur of Nightwing


10 thoughts on “Nightwing

  1. says:

    I’ve stopped being surprised by terrible reads which are way overhyped and deluged with five star ratings By the same token I’m no longer surprised by very good reads either ignored completely or rated too low I read this novel as a teenager when it first came out decades ago and gave it another read recentlyIt is a very entertaining read in many ways and while by no means a masterpiece it held up fairly well Nightwing is very reminiscent in many ways of Tony Hillerman's Joe LeaphornJim Chee mystery novels The atmosphere is very similar in fact right down to the Four Corners location and the mysticism of the Navajo and Hopi Indians There is also the same social commentary in regard to the exploitation of the tribes for the resources on Indian lands Mainly however this is an old fashioned thriller marred to some degree by an okay but certainly not great endingMost readers who like Jim Chee will like the Hopi protagonist Youngman Most readers who enjoy the LeaphornChee novels will find a great deal to like here in fact though it is a switch in genre from the Hillerman series Perhaps other reviewers who haven't read or don't like the Hillerman mysteries or were expecting another Gorky Park type of work from Cruz were surprised by this earlier work and it lessened their enjoyment of this old fashioned lean and involving storyNightwing certainly isn't perfect but it has many good moments to recommend it I rounded up to four stars rather than down to three because the atmosphere overcame the conclusion for me Others have gone into the plot which you can read in the book description so I’ll refer you to that on this occasion If you don't like Hillerman however you won't enjoy this as it has the same feel as that series but moved sideways into another genre A good book to curl up with on a stormy night It won't bore you it's just not one which will blow you away


  2. says:

    Humans have been telling horror stories around the campfire about the dangers of the creatures of the night probably since before there were campfires Second only to stories of creation the “why” and “how” of how we got here scary bedtime stories the “what if” of survival in the big bad world have probably been the most popular form of entertainment for humans They still areSpecifically “Man vs Nature” horror stories stories in which Mother Nature shows her dark side and seeks revenge against humanity for its many wrongs against her have always been popular because they play upon a fear that has never adeuately been nor will ever be allayed no matter hard humans have tried the fear that our place within the natural world is not only fleeting but has indeed passed us byLike the dinosaurs and many millions of other species in Earth’s history humanity has outlived its usefulness We are nearing extinction We’re just in denialThe literature of the 19th and 20th centuries especially is replete with stories of vengeful nature and nature run amok It’s no coincidence that the rise of the number of these stories are directly proportional to the rise of industrialization and almost unstoppable advances in technology and scienceNowhere is this most prevalent than within the horror genre Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” arguably the most popular horror novels of their day and the first true “mainstream” novels of the horror genre are both basically about men whose hubris in defying nature and their crimes against nature invite deadly and tragic conseuencesIn “Dracula” the titular character whose perversions against nature are so vile that nature essentially punishes him by turning him into a vampire a creature with an insatiable thirst for blood who is destined to never again walk in daylightIn “Frankenstein” the protagonist is a scientist who in the process of playing God denies his own creation and invites the creature to righteously seek vengeance against a world that he did not ask to be brought intoBoth novels are morality fables about the dangers and deadly conseuences of disrespecting nature but then again so are every other horror novel ever writtenIn the horror genre nature is often an unfeeling force with no compassion for humanity But determining who the “good guy” and the “bad guy” is in man vs nature stories isn’t always easy We are a constant threat to nature’s survival via our rampant ecological devastation rise of industrializationmechanization and so called “progress” Nature which is inherently devoid of moral ualifiers is nevertheless always and ironically personified as Evil Nature is always being made the villain whether in the form of birds Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds” great white sharks Peter Benchley’s “Jaws” or rabid St Bernard dogs Stephen King’s “Cujo”But is nature the real villain? Even in real life wild animals are always the ones to blame whether a gorilla in a zoo or an alligator on a Florida beach When a child feels the brunt of nature’s indifference it’s always nature’s fault but the gorilla and the alligator are simply doing what they’ve been doing forever marking their territory protecting the herd preying on the weak The result is nonetheless tragic for the child injured or killed but it’s almost universally unacceptable to even hint that the destruction of a gorilla or the killing of alligators is eually tragicMartin Cruz Smith a novelist best known for his mystery series involving Russian police detective Arkady Renko wrote a creepy little horror novel in 1977 called “Nightwing” Perhaps riding the wave of popularity of Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel “Jaws” or perhaps because he simply has a thing for bats Smith wrote the uintessential novel about a swarm of killer vampire batsWhile the blurbs on the cover make the comparison to Benchley’s “Jaws” a perfectly reasonable and appropriate comparison Smith’s novel has in common with Joe Dante’s movie “Piranha” which came out a year after “Nightwing” was publishedBenchley’s book was tame compared to the blood and guts of “Nightwing” Smith was certainly not afraid to be very liberal and graphic in his descriptions of huge vampire bats rending the flesh and muscle of its victims Us gorehounds thank him for thatA lot of fascinating but overall diversionary stuff involving Hopi Indian legends and supernatural mythical creatures populate the book owing to its New Mexico setting on a Hopi reservation It’s a blatant attempt by Smith to add a mystical element to his story one that is purposefully undermined by the real messageThe vampire bat attacks are brilliantly written and terrifying stuff but the real horror lies in the scientific plausibility of the story Because just when the survivors think they are safe they succumb to a virulent strain of bubonic plague of which the vampire bats are unwitting carriersThe characters in the story are almost stock horror movie tropes the down and out alcoholic cop hero the brilliant but slightly mad scientist bent on the bats’ destruction the damsel in distress and of course the corporate CEO villain whose greed and self interest has led to environmental destruction and ecological mutation that ignited this story of nature run amokThe moral of the story hardly needs to be stated It’s the same moral for all these stories from the horrors of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” to Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” respect nature Learn to live WITH nature not AGAINST it Stop messing with the environment or the environment is going to kick our assIt’s a moral that has been and will continue to be ignored by humanity until the day we breathe our last breath


  3. says:

    In Rob Nixon's superb book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor he asserts that there isn't a great anti oil novelmovement the same way there's a great body of anti coalindustrialization literature That might be a fair assertion But then I read Martin Cruz Smith's Nightwing which is not a great novel but is a good pulp novel very interested in American corporate industrial exploitation of the Hopi and Navajo Indians Yes it's a horror novel about hordes of vampire bats a concept that fully embraces the absurdity of pulp horror don't read horror if you want plausibility and realism; the whole point of the genre is often to destroy those boundaries But beyond its basic premise is a study of corporate colonial greed that I really appreciate especially since the Navajo tribe's oil and gas acreage is the second largest the United StatesSmith isn't Hopi or Navajo but he does have Pueblo ancestry which doesn't make him an expert but does underscore the obvious intent to draw attention to injustices done to these tribes I'm not a Native American scholar and not very well read in Native American literature so I can't really comment on his portrait of these tribes and cultures But his intent is commendable and his anger toward the oil industry's exploitation is completely understandable Vampire bats their origins and connections to humans play into that commentary and metaphor of corporate greed and its power to destroy entire peoples The ending makes that rather abundantly clear Thankfully Smith doesn't cast Native Americans as helpless victims but presents a much dynamic story than that The story also excels in being uick and direct it's short and you can rip through it really fast It could probably be even a touch slimmer Given the wretched history of capitalist exploitation of tribal natural resources in the twentieth century see Judy Pasternak's book Yellow Dirt about the corporate and military greed surrounding uranium extraction during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War as well as Donald Fixico's The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century for some sobering reading I'd say Smith's book is an appropriate and much needed literary contribution to criticizing America's continued exploitation of Native Americans Perhaps Nixon is right that there isn't a great body of anti oil literature Or maybe Nixon just isn't looking in the right place If high American literature is still largely determined by white American males and it certainly would have been in 1977 when this novel was released then is it much of a surprise that a pulp novel about issues on a Native American reservation would be overlooked? Maybe pulp is where we'll find a solid body of anti oil anti capitalist literature Sure stories like Nightwing aren't masterpieces of literary excellence but there's a democratizing potency to their style that makes them of immense social value


  4. says:

    This is a horror thriller which made my skin crawl with its intense and vibrant descriptions of blood thirsty vampire bats They kill everything living animals and human beings and carry rabies and the plague It begins with a disillusioned elderly Indian Abner casting a spell to bring the world as it currently is to an end This covers the way many Indians behave and live political corruption and corporate greed Deputy Duran is present when the spell is cast but does not take it seriouslyAbner dies in what appear to be strange circumstances and all hell is let loose People and animals meet their deaths in grisly ways Deputy Duran eventually believes that Abner has let loose this horror and risks everything to put an end to this Only read this book if you have a strong stomach Ultimately I feel ambivalent about this book I prefer the author when he is writing about Arkady


  5. says:

    I am uite a fan of Martin Cruz Smith's recent books so I've been working on picking up his older ones as well This one however I'd recommend giving a miss I recognize that horror often depends on taking ordinary things and making them somehow spooky but Nightwing engages in fearmongering that could be genuinely harmful to a necessary and helpful population of bats that are in delicate balance if not actively threatened often by presenting fictional information as though it were scientific factThe plot has to do with a Native American deputy caught between two worlds His girlfriend is Caucasian but his best friend an old shaman is disgusted with the modern world and threatens to do a magic working that will end the world leaving only the people of his tribe to start again The deputy naturally thinks this is just bluster but when a bat spread plague begins spreading to epidemic proportions doubt sets in He might be able to do something to stop it but that would also be a betrayal of his peopleThe book is reasonably well written and just barely stays on the right side of the line as far as stereotypes of native Americans but the portrayals of bats and their behavior patterns are nothing short of libelous Even though this was written uite some years ago I believe the author should step up and make a hefty donation to the cause of combating the bat plague that is the plague that is seriously wiping out the bat populations of the Northeastern US


  6. says:

    A good early effort from Martin Cruz Smith Plague ridden vampire bats invade the southwest but fortunately there is a conflicted Hopi policeman and a driven bat hunter on hand to confront them Well written and displays the interest in other cultures that would serve Cruz so well later in his Arkady Renko series Good pulp fun


  7. says:

    I thought the writing was hypnotic at times It took me to a different time and mystic place but still with the greed and corruption of today I learned about bats but feel like I missed the point or connection of plaguefleasbats I’ll be afraid to go outside after dark for a few days


  8. says:

    This is a really excellent novel Smith is a great writer His books are detailed filled with simile great characters and his prose pulls you into the scene effortlesslyNightwing can be described accurately by reference to other mystery icons Nightwing is Jaws but set in the desert and written by Tony Hillerman Only Smith is a much better writer than Hillerman and much creative than Peter BenchleyLike Jaws the mystery and disaster in Nightwing is of nature's making Benchley exaggerated great white sharks for Jaws and it made a great story I don't know if Smith has exaggerated his natural phenomenon but it doesn't matter The story is completely believableAdd interesting heroes and villains plus all the cultural and natural wonders of the Navaho and Hopi reservations in the southwest and this is the most exciting mystery I've read in a long time A movie exactly like jaws except set in the desert should have been made of this novel but could not be made now due to the proliferation of bad horror flicks Jeepers Creepers comes to mind that have preempted the field Jaws would never have been a movie if there had already been fifty cheesie movies about mutant fish eating people Sad that there was no way to make a seuel or maybe it's fortunate Smith's next endeavor was Gorky Park


  9. says:

    Like a less successful euivalent of Michael Crichton Martin Cruz Smith’s story tries to tell of a disaster whilst at the same time dealing with scientific facts medical jargon and deeply detailed passages of description and behind the scenes examination All of this serves to perhaps give the book greater credibility than it deserves Essentially its just another nature run amok story but the level of authenticity means that you’ll never mistake this for a book by say Guy N Smith But at the same time it seems Smith has forgotten to make his book interesting to the casual reader so passages of action and excitement are limited There are some good bits – the scenes of desert survival etc but there are far too few engaging characters to become really caught up in the story The central character Youngman is an Indian with a chip on his shoulder who’s always getting up people’s noses including the reader Violence and bloodshed are kept to a relative minimum for this genre whilst the final solution to the problem is boringly predictable Even the widespread disaster hinted at by the blurb is missing the action always small scale Definitely a lesser addition to this overworked genre


  10. says:

    Cheesy as can be but a lot of fun