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SAVAGE SNOW
By WILL HOLT (Signet; 1980)

Here’s something I’d never have expected, a disaster thriller from the eighties paperback market that actually turned out to be good--damn good (for examples of the inverse see Ben Elisco’s ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY and Claude Teweles’ THE WILDS). In fact, I feel SAVAGE SNOW ranks with classics of the form like George R. Stewart’s 1941 STORM, with which SAVAGE SNOW shares a panoramic scope and sure grasp of meteorology. Yet author Will Holt is also careful to insert generous dollops of sex and violence, which turn out to fit quite well with the novel’s overriding theme: the breakdown of civilization when a populace is placed under unusual duress, with results that are extreme in every sense of the word.

     The subject is a massive blizzard that hits Boston on the day before Mardi Gras, and lasts through the night and into the following morning. During that time roads are closed and power shorted out across the city, leading to looting and random violence. The focus is primarily on a motel in the Revere suburb, where quite a few stranded travelers elect to ride out the storm--so many, in fact, that before long all the hotel’s rooms are packed and people are sleeping on the lobby floor--and also a nearby concert hall, where the rock band Savannah Sound is set to perform for hundreds of eager young fans, unaware that the hall’s flimsy roof can only hold so much snow before it collapses.

     Of course it’s the characters who people this drama that really make it interesting, including the pampered housefrow Jeanne, left alone with her children by her philandering husband and forced to deal with the criminal element that sweeps the area as the storm stretches on; the brothers Brian and Denny, who front Savannah Sound and, in the book’s most outrageous passage, have a threesome with a young groupie, kicking off a full-blown orgy that concludes with their tour manager getting sucked off by another band member; Marian, a wealthy woman who finds that her lofty social status means absolutely nothing once the snow begins piling up; and Anthony, a young hood whose street smarts prove to be mighty valuable commodities in gassing up a stolen snow plow and getting a pregnant woman to a hospital.

     All of this is related in short blocks of prose, each focused on one of abovementioned characters, whose behavior, be it ugly, heroic or horny, is never less than entirely convincing--as real life events have recently demonstrated. Obviously the idea of a massive snowstorm crippling the Northeast isn’t at all far-fetched in these post-Hurricane Sandy days, and while Sandy’s devastation wasn’t quite as dramatic (or as sexy) as that portrayed here, there’s no question that Will Holt got quite a few details right. He also provides a just and satisfying conclusion.

     

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