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The Elementals

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  4,241 Ratings  ·  617 Reviews
On a split of land cut off by the Gulf, three Victorian summer houses stand against the encroaching sand. Two of the houses at Beldame are still used. The third house, filling with sand, is empty...except for the vicious horror which is shaping nightmares from the nothingness that hangs in the dank, fetid air.

The McCrays and Savages, two fine Mobile families allied by marr
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Valancourt Books (first published 1981)
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Jim Puskas Yes. Christopher Fowler in his "Book of Forgotten Authors" identifies a recurrent theme in McDowell's books: "McDowell frequently returns to the idea…moreYes. Christopher Fowler in his "Book of Forgotten Authors" identifies a recurrent theme in McDowell's books: "McDowell frequently returns to the idea of being engulfed by natural forces, as man-made walls collapse and seas rise .... and he links these natural catastrophes to our own selfishness or blindness, flaws that leave dark stains on future generations.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Jayne Lamb Without being too glib, I think it was both. The third house became a depository for all of the ongoing family mythology.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
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Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-gothic
I would read a lot more horror tales if they were all this well written with this much originality.
If you are looking for that perfect horror story to take with you to the beach... this is it.

So have you ever been walking along a beach and felt the sand trying to pull you down?
Just a natural settling you say.
But did you look to see if perhaps it had left a mark around your ankles?
The sand wants what it wants.
Have you ever returned indoors after a day at the beach, took a long shower in or
mark monday
here's a rant:

the constant marginalization of horror really pisses me off. this is, after all, a genre that includes works by Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Ambrose Bierce, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Justin Cronin... so many classic and modern luminaries. it includes modern unknowns like Thomas Ligotti, who can out-write 9 authors out of 10, and dazzling semi-unknowns like Robert Aickman, whose prose can be compared favorably to best of Beattie or Byatt or Boyle. and yet it
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any fans of 80's atmospheric horror
Recommended to Char by: Tressa Fancher
This book was a total pleasure, from start to finish. To enhance that pleasure, I read it with a group of horror lovers over at Goodreads and we had a ball!

This book was written in the 80's and a lot of my fellow book loving friends have recommended it to me over the last few years. Problem was it was out of print and I couldn't even find 1 copy of anything he's written in the various used book stores in which I shop. Then, Valancourt Books came to the rescue! Valancourt is dedicated to bringin
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to HFK by: Char
Shelves: paidkindle, horror
My friend Char introduced me to an independent press called Valancourt Books a few years back. They specialize on publishing works that could be labelled under the tags of neglected, forgotten and rare, and they really seem to have a great range of horror fiction under their belt which has resulted me stocking some Kindle editions of horror books from the 80's to my personal digital library.

I like this as I am drawn to old school horror, but I am only that with the cinematic horror. I have no c
Jonathan Janz
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Tennessee Williams wrote a supernatural horror novel, it would read like THE ELEMENTALS.

This statement isn't completely true, of course; Michael McDowell was a fiercely unique author who wrote unlike any other. But some of the most fascinating aspects of Tennessee Williams's plays are exhibited in this novel: atypical/dysfunctional familial relationships; unpleasant truths suppressed or left unspoken; horror-through-acquiescence; moments of shocking violence; manipulative, vicious matriarchs
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of classic, supernatural horror

Honestly, I think I'd have a difficult time finding a better example of a "quiet horror" book that delivers genuine chills! The southern atmosphere and isolation of the vacation houses of the two main families couldn't have been in a better location. With nothing except the shifting sands and surf for company, the scene here was set perfectly for a horror so unsettling, that even I couldn't predict what would happen next!

If you're looking for a gore/torture fest, you won't find it
Horace Derwent
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"savage mothers eat their children up!"

...still the parrot squawking about my ears

in 1981, the paperback costed $2.95, now it costs over $20.95, but that's not what's stir-frying my's that the golden age of horror novels is really gone and it's long gone, alas...

i'd been prepping for not getting ass stir-fried by this great book, but i'm now just being ass stir-fried by it and i'm enjoying it...

"the sands is the elementals, the sands is combing for you..."
Dan Schwent
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books, 2018
When Marian Savage dies, her son and his family head south to Beldame to recover in beach houses that have been in the family for generations. The family splits and takes two of the beach houses. The third house stays vacant, for an ancient evil lurks within...

I read Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga earlier this year and loved it. Michael McDowell has been on my radar ever since. When my cohort Anthony offered to loan it to me, I jumped on it.

I have to think The Elementals is a trial
Paul Nelson
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Elementals by Michael McDowell was first released in 1981 and then re-released in 2014 by Valancourt Books with an introduction by author Michael Rowe.

The story begins with the funeral of Marian Savage, the matriarch of an old and opulent family from Alabama with an intriguingly peculiar and disturbing burial rite.

The Savage family are linked by marriage, friendship and history to the McCrays and both families spend the summer at Beldame. An island compound on which sits three identical Vict
Tiffany Reisz
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Never EVER let me read a horror novel when I’m home alone at night EVER again. EVER.
Adriana  Lopez
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una genialidad. Personajes inolvidables. Una gran historia que por momentos da escalofríos.
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
4.5/5 Review of this will be up tomorrow!
The Elementals is absolutely fantastic and listening to it somehow makes it even better!

A horror story from the golden age of the 80's, The Elementals stands head and shoulders above the rest. Everything about it has the ring of truth, from the accents of southern Alabama, (my Alabama friend Tressa assures me of this, and R.C. Bray nails it), to the strange familial relationships, and the supernatural beliefs of the characters. All of it combines to bring together an actually scary story. Even t
Jon Recluse
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Three houses. Isolated on a spit of land along the Gulf Coast of Alabama known as Beldame. Two are occupied in season. One is abandoned, slowly being swallowed up by the ever-shifting dunes. But far from empty. For within the shifting sands, something stirs.
This book is a masterpiece of Southern Gothic. An atmospheric sun-drenched sojourn into horror that matches pace to place, a laconic stroll through the hazy, lazy days of summer, populated by the kind of eccentrics you only find below the Mas
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to BrokenTune by: Char
Shelves: reviewed
“Oh,” he whispered, “sorry, Nails, you all right?”
He smiled, remembering in what affection his mother had held the shrill bird— despite its disappointing speechlessness. He raised the cover to peer inside. The parrot flapped its iridescent, blood-red wings and stuck its beak between the bars. Its flat black eye reflected light that was not in the room. For the first time in its eight-year life, the parrot spoke. In cold imitation of Luker McCray’s voice, the parrot cried: “Savage mothers eat the
I'm so glad I had read three other Michael McDowell books before this one. It made The Elementals seem even better.

Welcome to Beldame, a sandbar set out in the Gulf of Mexico, where three houses stand. Two are used by the connected families, the McCrays and the Savages. The third sits at the end of the sandbar, slowly being covered and filled by sand. It sits there long abandoned and ready to be forgotten.



Something evil lurks in that third house and the inhabitants of Beldame are about to figure
Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder*
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder* by: Tressa

3.5 stars

When reading this, expect to go between dry humor and subtle creepiness.

Unusual characterization makes the book stand out as much as the plot does. I’ve never seen a father-daughter relationship like Luker and his daughter India. It’s not possible to describe well – he hates his ex-wife and she hates her mother, and they don’t care either. I’m guessing he does what is right and loves his daughter but has much more of a friend than father relationship – they swear comfortably in front of
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Despite its slow pace or maybe because of it I was drawn into this one from the very first chapter, which really set the tone and feel of this one.

Screaming Nails. Family secrets. Family rituals. The Elementals.

Something sinister is going on near the McCray and Savage family homes at Beldame. A presence has made itself known. It lives in the sand that is slowly devouring the third house and now it wants more. Much more.

A very good Southern Slow Burn Horror tale that really cranks up the tension
Tom Mathews
Alabama native and horror writer Michael McDowell knew Southern Gothic. This creepy masterpiece from the golden age of horror blends the indolence of a steamy southern summer with the horror of unknown things that lurk on the fringes of the imagination. The setting, three Victorian mansions set on a tiny island on Alabama's gulf coast is an ideal setting for a tale that will leave you chilled even in the hot summer sun.

I want to thank the folks at the Literary Darkness group in Goodreads for int
David Brian
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are certain books which I tend to think of fondly and consider as favorites, only later to re-read and discover that the passing of time has dulled the enjoyment I felt during that initial reading. Maybe, in later years, I will re-read The Elementals by Michael McDowell, and perhaps by then I will have found more deserving favorites.
It's a possibility.
For now though, I would have to say that The Elementals is the finest example of Southern Gothic, and/or Quiet Horror, that I have had the p
Sadie Hartmann Mother Horror
This is a tough book for me to review. There are things I hated about it and there are things I really, really loved about it.
This is a *very* slow burn of a book. It starts off with an interesting hook in the prologue but then it rambles for an age before anything really gets interesting. Fans of a classic Southern Gothic tale will love the way McDowell sets the stage and then engages his characters in witty banter--you can almost hear the whiskey laced, Southern drawls.
A matriarch, Mother Sav
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No exagero al decir que este libro se ha convertido en uno de mis nuevos favoritos. Voy a reseñarlo sin spoilers, lo cual será muy difícil porque hay miles de momentos que quisiera comentar en particular...

Michael McDowell nos deleita con una historia gótica sureña, ambientada en el pueblo de Mobile, Alabama y que se desarrolla en medio de un verano con un calor sofocante. El libro llegó a mis manos en el momento perfecto, pues justo en mi ciudad las temperaturas estaban a tope y todos moríamos
Mike (the Paladin)
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
You know...I'd forgotten these books. My wife found this (and I'll say "these" as she went from this book to McDowell's Blackwater series. This isn't part of that series, but I always think of them together as I read it after my wife in her "McDowell Period").

My wife was always more the "horror" fan than I was/am and she ended up introducing me to several authors/books I probably would never have tried had she not found them first. During our marriage we would occasionally come across books we b
This was an amazing piece of southern literature. The characters were likeable and pretty awesome, especially India, although her relationship with her dad could be questionable. The houses in Beldame seemed like the perfect vacation although I emphasize seemed and if you read this book, which I highly recommend, you will see why. I'll tell you this, you certainly won't see sand the same way! Something is waiting for these two families that you won't wanna miss! Can't wait to read more from this ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una obra maestra. McDowell es un escritor increíblemente sutil creando una atmósfera de gran horror. Los personajes son su especial invento. Pocas historias pueden ser tan atractivas como ésta: la playa, las casas, el terror.
Nancy Oakes
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one's a 4.5, and I do have to say that while I was reading it, nature provided the perfect backdrop -- hard rain, thunder, and lightning so bright it flashed through the closed blinds. I would also like to say that Valancourt Books has done readers a huge favor with this reissued classic -- they have made it widely available at a very good price -- have you seen the cost of a used crappy mass market paperback of this book?

absolutely no spoilers ahead:

The Elementals focuses on two Alabama
The Just-About-Cocky Ms M
An amazing Southern Gothic tale--just this side of over the top, tongue in cheekiness characters whose names are perfect for the genre, and Lower Alabama, and whose speech is spot-on, suggesting through the judicious use of a few words like "gone" for "going" and "cain't" for "can't" the entire honeyed treacle-drenched cadence of Southern speech without having to actually wade through it on every page.

The plot involves an old family compound on a back-of-beyond and nearly inaccessible spit of la
Twerking To Beethoven
Maybe you've read Peter Straub's Ghost Story.


"The Elementals" sort of reminded me of that amazing novel, plus a couple of splatter-ish bits towards the end.

There's a haunted house.


And funny stuff happening in and around it.


And... sand. Plenty of sand.


Bear in mind this is not a proper ghost-story: the "elementals" aren't exactly people who, you know... snuffed it; also they appear to be more active in plain daylight.

Oh, before I forget, "gone" in Alabama means "going to". Just so you know.
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, horror, favorites
The person who wrote the prologue was correct when he stated that the setting was a character in this book. This review won't do the book proper justice because I'm writing it in a hurry... Aside from the strange opening act, the first half of the book left me wondering if this book was indeed correctly classified as "horror." There were a few events of a supernatural nature that occurred in the early stages of the novel, but then things appeared to calm down. Just past the halfway point, the si ...more
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Michael McDowell is a prolific horror writer who has distinguished himself with a varied body of work within the genre. He was born in Enterprise, Alabama, in 1950 and died of AIDS-related illness in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1999.

His first horror novel, The Amulet, relates the tragedies that befall various individuals who come in possession of a supernatural bracelet in a small town.

In McDowell'
More about Michael McDowell

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“Savage mothers eat their children!” 6 likes
“Alcoholism is a disease,” she said. “Like athlete’s foot. Or herpes. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Luker and I have lots of friends who are alcoholics. And speed freaks too.” “Well,” 5 likes
More quotes…