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Harrowing tensions explode in a series of events that could happen anywhere, to anyone, just as they do to John Moore-whose days of freedom run out, who is stripped of his possessions, his courage, and his hopes, by the ominous presence of an insidious stranger impossible to resist. Published to wide acclaim in 1976, but almost neglected since then, The Auctioneer is a bon Harrowing tensions explode in a series of events that could happen anywhere, to anyone, just as they do to John Moore-whose days of freedom run out, who is stripped of his possessions, his courage, and his hopes, by the ominous presence of an insidious stranger impossible to resist. Published to wide acclaim in 1976, but almost neglected since then, The Auctioneer is a bona fide classic of American literature. The story of John Moore, his wife Mim, and his mother, it is a gripping tale of greed in a small town being quietly overrun by auctioneer Perly Dunsmore. Acclaimed by writers including Stephen King, and an influence on King's Needful Things, The Auctioneer is here reprinted for the first time in thirty years. Joan Samson (1937-1976) wrote The Auctioneer, her only novel, and was working on her second when she died of cancer.


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Harrowing tensions explode in a series of events that could happen anywhere, to anyone, just as they do to John Moore-whose days of freedom run out, who is stripped of his possessions, his courage, and his hopes, by the ominous presence of an insidious stranger impossible to resist. Published to wide acclaim in 1976, but almost neglected since then, The Auctioneer is a bon Harrowing tensions explode in a series of events that could happen anywhere, to anyone, just as they do to John Moore-whose days of freedom run out, who is stripped of his possessions, his courage, and his hopes, by the ominous presence of an insidious stranger impossible to resist. Published to wide acclaim in 1976, but almost neglected since then, The Auctioneer is a bona fide classic of American literature. The story of John Moore, his wife Mim, and his mother, it is a gripping tale of greed in a small town being quietly overrun by auctioneer Perly Dunsmore. Acclaimed by writers including Stephen King, and an influence on King's Needful Things, The Auctioneer is here reprinted for the first time in thirty years. Joan Samson (1937-1976) wrote The Auctioneer, her only novel, and was working on her second when she died of cancer.

30 review for The Auctioneer (Valancourt 20th Century Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Just remember this,” he said in a deep voice that cut neatly through the confusion. “Whatever I’ve done, you’ve let me do.” When Perly Dunsmore moves to Harlowe, New Hampshire, with his auctioneering company and starts espousing the natural beauty of the community, he is mostly regarded as a man a few slices short of a full loaf. Most of the people in Harlowe have been on the land for many generations, and for most of the year, they exist at a sustainable level. They are poor and don’t know ”Just remember this,” he said in a deep voice that cut neatly through the confusion. “Whatever I’ve done, you’ve let me do.” When Perly Dunsmore moves to Harlowe, New Hampshire, with his auctioneering company and starts espousing the natural beauty of the community, he is mostly regarded as a man a few slices short of a full loaf. Most of the people in Harlowe have been on the land for many generations, and for most of the year, they exist at a sustainable level. They are poor and don’t know it. They raise a lot of their own food and trade for what they don’t have. They are salt of the earth people, suspicious of strangers, and content with what they have. When Perly decides to start having a regular auction every week, there are snorts of laughter and several shaking heads over this fool from out of town thinking he could make money in Harlowe. Perly decides that the first auctions should be held as a benefit to add a deputy to the police force. Deputy? They barely needed a sheriff. Well, there was that person hacked up not too long ago, but then that crime must have been committed by a stranger passing through town, right? Because no one around here would kill someone. The sheriff comes around looking for donations, stuff that people aren’t using anyway. Everybody pitches in because no one wants to be seen as not helping the community, and everyone ends up with a check after the auction. Cash money is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Then there is an auction to help the volunteer firemen. Perly puts advertisements in papers as far away as Boston for people to come to the auction. And people come. Perly doesn’t seem to be as crazy as everyone thinks. John and Mim Moore have a four year old daughter named Hildie. John’s mother lives with them. Several generations of Moore’s are buried up on the hill, resting under poison oak and the dust of many seasons. They clean out the barn of all the stuff they aren’t using anyway for the auctions and then the attic. Every week the Sheriff, sometimes accompanied by the honey worded Perly, stops by to see if there is more to be contributed. The weekly contribution is becoming something more than voluntary. ”’Does it mean so much to you? I know the pleasures of a dressing table to a good-looking woman. But there are other things--better schools for Hildie, year-round church, more ready cash, more comforts…I know what I want.’ Mim could not move without flailing out at the man and making him back off, and she trembled from the effort of suppressing her need to do so. ‘Comfort,’ he said almost fiercely.’You’ve never known much comfort, have you Mim?’ Mim raised her eyes to Perly’s, blue and defiant. Perly dropped his gaze to Mim’s hands, pressed flat and angry against the wall behind her. Slowly, he raised his eyes to Mim’s again, his face curling into lines of pleasure, perhaps of triumph.’You and I will have to get together someday, Mim,’ he said. ’I admire a woman with grit.’ Then, with his own glittering stillness, he held Mim motionless against the wall while the clock in the kitchen chimed over and over again. When she dropped her eyes, he moved quietly away.” I wanted to share this scene because it conveys the simmering, menacing uneasiness that permeates the whole novel. Perly keeps adding more and more deputies who are really just there to keep the contributions coming for the auctions. People give and give and give until all they have left is the land, and Perly has plans for that as well. There are so many points in the novel where I wanted the Moore’s to make a stand. To push back, but when others in the community push back, unfortunate misadventures happen to them. Everyone has families, and having families makes it natural for strong men to be afraid. It almost seems implausible, the level of control that Perly achieves over this community, but it is so gradual that, by the time people realize how bad it is, it is almost too late. I kept thinking to myself, where is my line in the sand? Where do I make my stand and say... no more? How do I do that and keep my family safe? Joan Samson There is very little to share about Joan Samson, unfortunately. She passed away shortly after the publication of The Auctioneer from cancer. She was 39 years old and was working on a second novel. If she had lived, there was a good chance that she would have surpassed the work of Shirley Jackson or at least be mentioned in the same sentence as the famous gothic horror writer. This book has fallen into obscurity, but like other novels I’ve reviewed on Goodreads, a perfect example being Mortal Leap by MacDonald Harris, I’m simply not going to let this book stay a lost novel. It is a wonderful example of gothic horror with superb writing that will make you feel the mounting terror as options for these good people shrink to the size of a mustard seed. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Char

    4.5/5 stars! Evil in a small town is one of my favorite horror tropes and books like this are the reason why! Harlowe, New Hampshire is a small town surrounded by small farms. It's a tightly knit community, or at least the townsfolk believe it is, until an outsider comes to town and slowly things begin to unravel. Perly Dunsmore is an auctioneer. Taking over a recently available old mansion in town, (due to the death of the previous owner), Perly sets about "improving" Harlowe by holding auctions 4.5/5 stars! Evil in a small town is one of my favorite horror tropes and books like this are the reason why! Harlowe, New Hampshire is a small town surrounded by small farms. It's a tightly knit community, or at least the townsfolk believe it is, until an outsider comes to town and slowly things begin to unravel. Perly Dunsmore is an auctioneer. Taking over a recently available old mansion in town, (due to the death of the previous owner), Perly sets about "improving" Harlowe by holding auctions to benefit the police department. These auctions are funded by the generous donations of the townspeople. Until they're no longer able to do so, (eventually there's nothing left), in which case they are gently and quietly threatened to come up with more donations, or ELSE. Will Harlowe survive these auctions or will it rise up against Perly in protest? You'll have to read this to find out! I've been thinking about what this novel was really about and I'm still not quite sure. The strongest feeling I have about it relates to that old poem: "First they came for the Socialists...", but that's not quite right. Then I was wondering if it was really about fascism-the auctions after all first funded a police department, to the point of having almost as many officers and deputies as there were citizens in the entire town. But that doesn't quite fit the bill either, especially in light of the finale. Then I finally gave up the analyzing and endeavored to enjoy this novel for the yummy, atmospheric piece of horror fiction that it was. If this is the type of story that usually works for you, (quiet, small town horror a la Tryon's HARVEST HOME, or maybe Michael Rowe's ENTER, NIGHT), I highly recommend you give this book a shot! I listened to it on audio, narrated by Matt Godfrey, whose voicing of Ma Moore I will never forget. Atmospheric, full of tension and fear, THE AUCTIONEER still holds up as an excellent tale, even now, 40 years later. I give it my highest recommendation! *I received this audiobook from the narrator in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it! Further, I consider Matt Godfrey to be a friend, although we've never met in person. This has not affected the content of this review.*

  3. 5 out of 5

    Grady Hendrix

    A brief bestseller when it debuted in 1975, Joan Samson’s The Auctioneer has been totally forgotten. Sites like Will Errickson’s Too Much Horror Fiction have kept its tiny flame from becoming completely extinguished, but it’s basically a literary shooting star that flared once, and was gone. Contributing to its short shelf-life, Samson wrote The Auctioneer in her 30s and died of cancer shortly after it was published. Her death is our loss. This is one of those books you stumble across with no ex A brief bestseller when it debuted in 1975, Joan Samson’s The Auctioneer has been totally forgotten. Sites like Will Errickson’s Too Much Horror Fiction have kept its tiny flame from becoming completely extinguished, but it’s basically a literary shooting star that flared once, and was gone. Contributing to its short shelf-life, Samson wrote The Auctioneer in her 30s and died of cancer shortly after it was published. Her death is our loss. This is one of those books you stumble across with no expectations, and when you finished reading you think, “Why isn’t this more famous?” Spare, unforgiving, and hard all the way down the line, if Cormac McCarthy had written Needful Things, you’d get The Auctioneer. Read the rest of this review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    4.5 stars. THE AUCTIONEER, by Joan Samson, was first issued in 1976. This new edition released by Valancourt Books in 2018 comes with an all new introduction by Grady Hendrix, as well as an afterword by the author's husband, Warren Carberg. This novel takes place in a farming community called Harlowe. In a quiet, peaceful American town where change is very slow to come, John and Mim Moore farm the land that John's family had owned for many generations. With their beautiful four-year-old daughter, 4.5 stars. THE AUCTIONEER, by Joan Samson, was first issued in 1976. This new edition released by Valancourt Books in 2018 comes with an all new introduction by Grady Hendrix, as well as an afterword by the author's husband, Warren Carberg. This novel takes place in a farming community called Harlowe. In a quiet, peaceful American town where change is very slow to come, John and Mim Moore farm the land that John's family had owned for many generations. With their beautiful four-year-old daughter, Hildie, and John's mother, "Ma", living with them, we have a perfect postcard picture of perhaps a "simpler" time in America. However, the author is quick to show the slow and calculating terror that can overcome a community almost before they even realize what's happening. In this case, it all starts with a newcomer named Perly Dunsmore and his slight request for old items to be donated to his planned auctions . . . "When your life turns into a lie, the first person you need to deceive is yourself . . . " Samson weaves this tale with exact precision. We'll get a taste of the happy Moore family going about their everyday duties together, and then a small intrusion into their slice of paradise to give the first stirrings of trouble. THE AUCTIONEER is not "in-your-face" horror, but a much more subtle, slowly mounting terror that takes a while to reach its peak. Nonetheless, once it starts, the emotions, losses, and their implications never let up--the fear is always present, ratcheting up inexorably page by page. ". . . He won't stop . . . There are people like that. Either you give in or you run." The language used is beautiful in its simplicity. We learn as much of how these changes are slowly devastating their traditional way of life by what is NOT stated as we do by what is. The omissions; usual outings that are cancelled, and the strain upon the household, shows us more than words could convey. This was true--not only in households--but also in interactions between neighbors. ". . . They talked the way they always had, except that now the familiar conversations seemed to be built on a silence as deep as the one that prevailed at home." Overall, I felt this was a brilliantly executed story that showcases how "unwanted" change can stealthily creep in on even the most complacent of towns. We are shown the old-time values, and how they contrast with "newer" lifestyles in more populated regions. Even the most loyal of citizens can be taken in by smooth-talking charlatans if the topic is right. When things are beyond out-of-hand, how would you react, and how far would you go to protect your family and your way of life? Recommended!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cody | CodysBookshelf

    What happens when good people do nothing? A searing hot read through and through, The Auctioneer — the author’s only release, due to dying of cancer the year after publication — barrels forward like a race car. I was hooked from page one, helpless to put it down. A stranger has come to Harlowe, a small farm town in New Hampshire. The stranger, Perly Dunsmore, has lived in forty countries and done business all over the world — he just oozes charm — and he’s chosen to move in to town: a place that What happens when good people do nothing? A searing hot read through and through, The Auctioneer — the author’s only release, due to dying of cancer the year after publication — barrels forward like a race car. I was hooked from page one, helpless to put it down. A stranger has come to Harlowe, a small farm town in New Hampshire. The stranger, Perly Dunsmore, has lived in forty countries and done business all over the world — he just oozes charm — and he’s chosen to move in to town: a place that reminds him of where he grew up. And with money and persuasion he soon gains control of the local police force. The story unfolds from the perspective of John Moore, a local farmer, and his family. Through them Samson captures a gritty, realistic ‘American’ perspective circa 1975. The stranger holds weekly auctions for townies and strangers, using items donated by citizens of Harlowe. Dunsmore wants to use the money raised for expanding the police force and building up the town. It starts with old wheels and moth-bitten clothes. But it doesn’t stop there. Though this book can certainly be read as an allegorical examination of the dangers of fascism (with the increase of police in town too increases crime) and ‘hive’ mentality — that’s the way I read it, and it is from this interpretation so much of the horror comes — this can also be read as a straightforward horror story a’la Shirley Jackson. Think “The Lottery” on a bigger scale. Or Needful Things, as written by Richard Bachman. This is the sort of novel I love. It is a total success; I could not put it down. It is a shame this title has fallen into such obscurity, but a used copy can be obtained online for a relatively reasonable price. My highest recommendation.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ctgt

    I stumbled across on online discussion praising this book and when my local library had a copy I decided to give it a try. An interesting look at the power of persuasion, namely the control one man is able to exert on a small rural New England township. In today's current environment of instant availability of news and information it can be difficult to imagine a time when people were still fairly isolated from the outside world and even their neighbors. Things start innocently enough when a rece I stumbled across on online discussion praising this book and when my local library had a copy I decided to give it a try. An interesting look at the power of persuasion, namely the control one man is able to exert on a small rural New England township. In today's current environment of instant availability of news and information it can be difficult to imagine a time when people were still fairly isolated from the outside world and even their neighbors. Things start innocently enough when a recently arrived auctioneer convinces the sole policeman to visit the residents asking for contributions to raise money for a new deputy. The auctioneer, Perly Dunsmore has some not so innocent long range plans. Dunsmore is one of these people who has an uncanny ability to use charm, subtle persuasion, innuendo, implied threats and shame to bend the community to his will. The primary focus of the story is the Moore family. John, his wife Mim, their four year old daughter Hildie and John's elderly mother who all live together on one of the small farms on the outskirts of the township. As the demands on the family and the community become more costly it is fascinating to watch just how far John and Mim will go to protect their family. How much will they give up? As the pressure mounts the strain on the family and their bonds stretches to the breaking point. How long do you wait for someone else to step up and speak out. As I'm reading I keep thinking to myself, there is no way I would let these things happen. I would like to believe this to be true. But as I think about my own family I can't help but wonder just what I would be willing to give up to protect my loved ones. 8/10

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alex (Hey Little Thrifter)

    This is an excellent example of 'quiet horror'. It's a slow-burn of a story that gets under your skin, fills you with anxiety, and pulls the rug out from beneath your feet. If you like stories set in small towns where people are the real monsters, I'd definitely recommend this one. The story follows the Moore family - John and Mim, their young daughter Hildie, and John's elderly mother, known as Ma. They run a farm in the small town of Harlowe in New Hampshire. They live a hard life with minimal This is an excellent example of 'quiet horror'. It's a slow-burn of a story that gets under your skin, fills you with anxiety, and pulls the rug out from beneath your feet. If you like stories set in small towns where people are the real monsters, I'd definitely recommend this one. The story follows the Moore family - John and Mim, their young daughter Hildie, and John's elderly mother, known as Ma. They run a farm in the small town of Harlowe in New Hampshire. They live a hard life with minimal mod cons, no proper bathroom, having to heat water on the stove to wash, living off the produce of their land. Then we meet Perly Dunsmore. He rocks up into town and charms the locals with his big plans. It starts off with a couple of auctions. If everyone can donate a few things the money raised at auction can go to fund the pretty much non-existent local police force. But before they know it things get out of hand and, as 'accidents' happen, they are unable to say no. This is an excellently written novel. Bleak and filled with dread and helplessness. It says a lot about American values and the American way. Owning land and having a home with your family is seen as not only a goal but also a right. It deals with themes of small town community and politics, mob mentality, progress versus tradition. The story went to a couple of places that I wasn't expecting and I thought the ending was perfectly fitting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mindi

    Valancourt Books recently brought this 70's horror classic back from obscurity, and I immediately picked it up. I had been hearing some buzz around the rerelease, and I was excited to read something that a number of people really enjoyed. Grady Hendrix, who single handedly started the vintage horror paperback revival with his excellent book Paperbacks From Hell, wrote the introduction for this edition, and I was excited for that as well. Hendrix knows and loves these classic horror stories, and Valancourt Books recently brought this 70's horror classic back from obscurity, and I immediately picked it up. I had been hearing some buzz around the rerelease, and I was excited to read something that a number of people really enjoyed. Grady Hendrix, who single handedly started the vintage horror paperback revival with his excellent book Paperbacks From Hell, wrote the introduction for this edition, and I was excited for that as well. Hendrix knows and loves these classic horror stories, and it's always interesting to hear what his opinion is on a particular title. Essentially this book remained an underground classic for the long duration of time that it remained out of print. Collectors would search for copies wherever there could find one, and readers would pass around paperbacks to share the experience with fellow horror lovers. The book continued to be sought after and shared for 30 years after it had gone out of print, and then finally Valancourt release this edition in the wake of the 70s and 80s horror fiction revival. John and Mim Moore live in the isolated farming community of Harlowe, New Hampshire with John's mother "Ma" and their young daughter Hildie. They live on a farm that has been in John's family for generations, and they adore the simple and quiet life they have created for themselves. Then one day Perly Dunsmore, the titular Auctioneer arrives in town, and before they know it, everyone in Harlowe has their lives turned upside down. Perly starts by helping the citizens get rid of the junk that has collected in their barns and attics, but he doesn't stop there. Perly has big plans for the town of Harlowe, and none of those plans have any of the current citizens in mind. I found myself truly hating Perly, and feeling an intense frustration with John for not doing anything to stop him or help his family. Perly is an antagonist that is meant to be hated, but John is far more complex. He's a man who is truly torn. He doesn't want to admit defeat and leave the only home he has ever known, and so he puts his family in increasingly tension filled and dangerous situations that truly had me on the edge of my seat. I had no idea how this one was going to end, and I'm happy to say I think Samson wrote a very strong ending. I didn't expect it, and it was refreshing to not be able to predict where a story is heading. I've heard nothing but praise for this novel, and all the buzz is true. I highly recommend The Auctioneer. It's a tense and unnerving novel that will definitely get under your skin.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t Bentley Little writing under a pen name…of course, he would have been a teenager, but you see what I’m sayin’. “We’re having an auction.” Now, pony up some stuff. All of it. I listened to this on audio and it was great. Matt Godfrey is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators. The dude has serious skills and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything that I have listened to from him. Absolutely perfect for the story. I also need to give a shout out to Valancourt Bo I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t Bentley Little writing under a pen name…of course, he would have been a teenager, but you see what I’m sayin’. “We’re having an auction.” Now, pony up some stuff. All of it. I listened to this on audio and it was great. Matt Godfrey is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators. The dude has serious skills and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything that I have listened to from him. Absolutely perfect for the story. I also need to give a shout out to Valancourt Books who has been re-releasing some truly excellent rare and out-of-print fiction. Kudos and please keep it up. “I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this honest review."

  11. 4 out of 5

    TK421

    The creepiest thing about this book is that my copy has a child's scribbling throughout it. A very unexpected (but appreciated) element to a story about a community losing its identity through lose of physical and emotional and familial possessions. Who was the Auctioneer? More troubling perhaps is: Are we not all the Auctioneer at times? I wish there were more books of this caliber written in this genre. Any suggestions?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maria Hill AKA MH Books

    Picture me confused - why is this classified as horror? This is literary Fiction at its finest. It slowly quietly snuck into my veins. Then the ending blew me away. This is the very real story of how one single individual can change a whole town for the worse but only because they let him do it. So why did they let him do it you may ask? I see one of my GR friends starts with the quote ”Just remember this,” he said in a deep voice that cut neatly through the confusion. “Whatever I’ve done, you’v Picture me confused - why is this classified as horror? This is literary Fiction at its finest. It slowly quietly snuck into my veins. Then the ending blew me away. This is the very real story of how one single individual can change a whole town for the worse but only because they let him do it. So why did they let him do it you may ask? I see one of my GR friends starts with the quote ”Just remember this,” he said in a deep voice that cut neatly through the confusion. “Whatever I’ve done, you’ve let me do.” To which I answer in the main protagonist ’s words “Ma’am,” he said, ‘for all your schoolin’, ain’t much you do understand”. Let’s just say it sort of all creeps up on them in a perfectly understandable manner. Centered at the heart of this novel are the love of family and the deep, deep ties to the land and what we will and will not do to keep them safe. The pace is slow and countrified. The dialogue genuine (or at least sounds so to me). The ending is satisfactory but Ma Moore’s last line will haunt me forever I think. As this was a library book - I am going to have to find my own copy of this one!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I don't remember where/how I heard about this book about two years ago. When I looked up Ms. Samson, and found out it was her only novel (she was writing her second, when she passed away from that frikkin cancer), I thought I'd look at my local used bookstore, and she had a copy. Her debut is a claustrophobic, slow boiling terror that's taking over a small town in New Hampshire. The effects of a charismatic stranger, with big plans for their quiet town...could happen anywhere. Great atmosphere an I don't remember where/how I heard about this book about two years ago. When I looked up Ms. Samson, and found out it was her only novel (she was writing her second, when she passed away from that frikkin cancer), I thought I'd look at my local used bookstore, and she had a copy. Her debut is a claustrophobic, slow boiling terror that's taking over a small town in New Hampshire. The effects of a charismatic stranger, with big plans for their quiet town...could happen anywhere. Great atmosphere and the characters of John and Mim Moore, trying to save their farm....and only child. Would have been wonderful to read what Ms. Samson was working on next.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Janelle Janson

    The cool thing about this cult classic is it’s been reintroduced back into the mainstream by Valancourt Books. Originally written in 1975, it’s now in a snazzy paperback with an introduction by one of my favorite authors, Grady Hendrix. Set in Harlowe, New Hampshire in a farm community, we meet an intriguing kind of evil. Perly Dunsmore is the town’s auctioneer and recently inquired an old mansion to set up shop. The auctions are funded by the residents’ donations and are meant to benefit the co The cool thing about this cult classic is it’s been reintroduced back into the mainstream by Valancourt Books. Originally written in 1975, it’s now in a snazzy paperback with an introduction by one of my favorite authors, Grady Hendrix. Set in Harlowe, New Hampshire in a farm community, we meet an intriguing kind of evil. Perly Dunsmore is the town’s auctioneer and recently inquired an old mansion to set up shop. The auctions are funded by the residents’ donations and are meant to benefit the community, but instead he bleeds them dry. Things really take a turn in this atmospheric, dreadful, suspenseful tale.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tressa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. After all the glowing reviews I read about this book and seeing a critic's comparison of this story with Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," I was somewhat disappointed because my expectations were so high. The Auctioneer starts off with a slow menace, but I thought the events in the story happened in an unbelievable time frame. And when Perly began auctioning off children, that's when it reached a ridiculous point for me. And it didn't seem plausible that the townsfolk couldn't come together sooner After all the glowing reviews I read about this book and seeing a critic's comparison of this story with Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," I was somewhat disappointed because my expectations were so high. The Auctioneer starts off with a slow menace, but I thought the events in the story happened in an unbelievable time frame. And when Perly began auctioning off children, that's when it reached a ridiculous point for me. And it didn't seem plausible that the townsfolk couldn't come together sooner and fight the power when they do so easily at the last meeting. This made the ending seem rushed and not well though out. Joan Samson is a deft writer who creates a little slice of New England in the seventies, filled with tough, stubborn, proud characters who know the importance of roots and land. And she expertly illustrates how even these kinds of no-nonsense characters can become cowed when authority overreaches with laws and regulations that turn them impotent. But I think I stopped feeling the menace of the story when Perly turned into the Grinch and took everything these people had, down to the last screwdriver. It was a little over-the-top for me and that's why I gave it three stars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    "She was swept with an awe at his power. It required a reversal of everything she wanted and believed to think that such power--whatever its devious route--could be directed at ends that were anything but right and good." It's always terrifying when a book published over 40 years ago is eerily relevant in a political sense. Although The Auctioneer deals with a story that is particular to the town its set in, the atmosphere that Joan Samson builds hits a little too close to home. The auctioneer, P "She was swept with an awe at his power. It required a reversal of everything she wanted and believed to think that such power--whatever its devious route--could be directed at ends that were anything but right and good." It's always terrifying when a book published over 40 years ago is eerily relevant in a political sense. Although The Auctioneer deals with a story that is particular to the town its set in, the atmosphere that Joan Samson builds hits a little too close to home. The auctioneer, Perly Dunsmore, takes over Harlowe & claims he wants to take the town back to its roots with "Christian values" (and at some point says something about making America great). He sells them on a vision of false community with great emphasis on excluding outsiders / strangers, and leads his sheeple to believe that he can keep them safe from the scary outside world. The town eats it up, and they easily fall into his traps. This book has gaslighting galore, and everyone who (somewhat) attempts to question what's going on is made to believe that they're wrong. That being said, nobody tries very hard, which brings me to the main message of the book (in my opinion) - silence about an act of evil is just as bad as committing the act yourself. This theme reminded me a lot of The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum, not because the plots have anything to do with each other, but both books have main characters who are dealing with the repercussions of their silence. The main character in The Auctioneer (John) was significantly more infuriating to me than the villain (Perly). I just wanted to scream at him for putting his family at risk so that he could stay selfishly silent. This entire book is a suffocated scream coming from the reader because they can't hear you, and they wouldn't listen anyway. It's a frustrating yet intriguing read. Harlowe, the town in which this book is set, is very well-written. It felt like a Stephen King small town story at times, which is where he really excels. It was easy to sink into this town, and horrifying to watch it fall apart. At first I gave this book 3⭐ because I was annoyed by the ending, but upon writing my review, I've bumped it up to 4⭐ because it is a good book as a whole. Some parts of it dragged a little too much for me, but it's still a pretty short book. Joan Samson was a talented writer, and it's unfortunate that this was her only book. The original editions of this book were difficult to find, but now Valancourt Books has re-published new editions! If you like small town horror with a political tone, pick up The Auctioneer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    This is the first hardcover edition of the book published by Simon And Schuster in 1975 and has 240 pages.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    A shady auctioneer named Percy Dunsmoore is terrorizing a small town named Harlowe by taking people's property selling them on his numerous auctions. Things got out of hand when he starts selling children and land. Suddenly a little town has more police than New York City per capita. John Moore seems to loose everything, even his cows are taken away from him but then the tables are turning. The book has a bit of a long winded start. Language is very rural/authentic and there's not much action go A shady auctioneer named Percy Dunsmoore is terrorizing a small town named Harlowe by taking people's property selling them on his numerous auctions. Things got out of hand when he starts selling children and land. Suddenly a little town has more police than New York City per capita. John Moore seems to loose everything, even his cows are taken away from him but then the tables are turning. The book has a bit of a long winded start. Language is very rural/authentic and there's not much action going on. Later when more and more items are taken away from the featured family you begin to feel for them and are literally drawn into the book and its surrounding. A very interesting, parable like novel having as subject the idolized countryside becoming a real nightmare. A book with much potential for discussion and analysis inside and a clear recommendation. I wouldn't say its horror, more a psychological thriller. It's a modern classic you should know!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Linda Branham Greenwell

    This is a book that you won't forget. It was written in the 70's and I read it way back then when it was new. I am going to reread this book. It is a story that will unnerve you. It takes place in a small country town. An auctioneer comes to town... and is trying to get started in business. The towns' people want to help him out, so they clean out their old items to help him get started... but then he KEEPS coming around. It brings to mind the quote: "All that is needed for evil to flourish is f This is a book that you won't forget. It was written in the 70's and I read it way back then when it was new. I am going to reread this book. It is a story that will unnerve you. It takes place in a small country town. An auctioneer comes to town... and is trying to get started in business. The towns' people want to help him out, so they clean out their old items to help him get started... but then he KEEPS coming around. It brings to mind the quote: "All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing." It is an eye opening read that will give you a good scare, and will also will leave you pondering human nature

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    The auctioneer is Perly Dunsmore. A newcomer to Harlowe, he preaches the virtue of the good old-fashioned values the town still has. He plays off the town’s fears of the threat of the outside world, slowly manipulating his way into their trust and admiration. He has the type of charisma that draws the most clear-headed away from their senses and soon the people of Harlowe are all his willing victims. John and Mim Moore, along with John’s elderly Ma and their young daughter Hildie, run a farm tha The auctioneer is Perly Dunsmore. A newcomer to Harlowe, he preaches the virtue of the good old-fashioned values the town still has. He plays off the town’s fears of the threat of the outside world, slowly manipulating his way into their trust and admiration. He has the type of charisma that draws the most clear-headed away from their senses and soon the people of Harlowe are all his willing victims. John and Mim Moore, along with John’s elderly Ma and their young daughter Hildie, run a farm that has been in their family for generations. They work hard and live simply; only a few of their possessions let you know this is the 20th century. The Moores are the epitome of the old-fashioned New England hardworking values that Perly hopes to capitalize on. Perly and local sheriff Bob Gore start coming by weekly, picking up unwanted and unused junk from the townsfolk and selling it at auction to tourists. It seems it’s all for the good of the town. Soon Perly buys the town an ambulance and slowly he starts to deputize most of the men in Harlowe. When all the junk is gone, Perly and his deputies come collecting for more personal and necessary household items. The Moores know something is wrong but they sit back and allow it all to happen. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that had me more upset with the victims than I was with the villain. And yet I could see it happening to innocent uneducated people who are out of touch with the rest of the world. This is an emotional, heartbreaking read. The best psychological horror is that which creeps up on you silently and plays on your fears as much as it does on its own characters’. We’re all willing victims to some extent—to our government, to the bullies at school, to our manipulative friend; we’ve all been taken advantage of at least once in our lives.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    I struggled with my rating. I think it was probably a nice allegory for its time (and our time), but it strikes me as too obvious and therefore inelegant, if that makes any sense. As I assume Samson is trying to write a story at a higher level, I found the morality a little too black and white, the evil city slicker/outsider and the noble country people of the earth. The suckers are also too easily suckered and cowed for too long. The attempts at paranoia weren’t that effective. Pare this down to I struggled with my rating. I think it was probably a nice allegory for its time (and our time), but it strikes me as too obvious and therefore inelegant, if that makes any sense. As I assume Samson is trying to write a story at a higher level, I found the morality a little too black and white, the evil city slicker/outsider and the noble country people of the earth. The suckers are also too easily suckered and cowed for too long. The attempts at paranoia weren’t that effective. Pare this down to Lottery size and the impact is sharper. It just dragged for me for a book that isn’t that long. This last point might not be fair, but from today’s perspective, the story was somewhat predictable and that led to some of the “just get on with it” feeling I had. Maybe in 1976 I wouldn’t have felt that way. However, I still liked the damn thing.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip Fracassi

    Look, with all due respect to Joan Samson, who tragically died of cancer within weeks of this book's publication, and who is a wonderful writer, this book is more theme than story. Here's what I mean by that: The whole premise of this story is based on the idea that a bunch of farmers with acres and acres of land they've owned for generations would allow an outsider to "smooth-talk" them into giving away a) All their earthly belongings b) All their cattle and livestock c) All their GUNS d) Their Look, with all due respect to Joan Samson, who tragically died of cancer within weeks of this book's publication, and who is a wonderful writer, this book is more theme than story. Here's what I mean by that: The whole premise of this story is based on the idea that a bunch of farmers with acres and acres of land they've owned for generations would allow an outsider to "smooth-talk" them into giving away a) All their earthly belongings b) All their cattle and livestock c) All their GUNS d) Their children??? I totally get that Samson was trying to make a point. But even with the idea that the whole book is an allegory for XYZ, you still need to base the tale in some sort of rooted reality. Either that, or go straight allegory so it reads as more of a fable. But Samson tried to have it both ways. Creating a realistic thriller / horror novel with "real" characters struggling to overcome an evil interloper, and a heavily-themed allegory on material possessions or modern vs tradition or blah blah blah. Point is this. If you ever worked on a farm, or ever knew an actual farmer, this story is as laughable as it is infuriating. Because folks, if you think a farmer would let you so much as put a fingertip on his or her belongings without catching a cloud of buckshot in the process, than you're out of your mind. Samson would have us believe that a whole community of farmers would stand idly by while the villain and a bunch of "deputies with sidearms" take their furniture, their most sacred belongings, their tools, their livestock, inappropriately fondle their wives and seduce their children... while they all just sort of fret and pace and wonder what to do. Yeah, okay. Sorry, but like I said, even the most outlandish fantasies need some basis in reality, especially when they're actually shooting for realism, and this book is so frustratingly impossible that you spend the entire time mentally screaming at the characters (and the author) to show a tiny bit of realistic, empathetic humanity. (I personally know of two uncles that would have happily gunned-down and secretly buried the antagonist and his cronies by the end of chapter two). And by the time they do finally stand up for themselves, you don't care anymore because it's been drawn out too long and you no longer believe a word of the story or care about these unrealistic people. That all said, the writing is wonderful, and the basic premise is actually interesting, and the themes are worth exploring, but the blind eye to reality is ultimately too much to overcome.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)

    Now this is the type of quiet horror that I absolutely fall in love with. A lot of horror today is overly descriptive and more shock value at times rather than the build of your own imagination... which for me, always leaves a layer of evil that I truly appreciate. Samson gives us the opportunity to use our own imaginations. This is definitely a slow burn of a horror story. The beginning was almost a bit too slow for my taste and I kept wondering when some action was going to take place. But the Now this is the type of quiet horror that I absolutely fall in love with. A lot of horror today is overly descriptive and more shock value at times rather than the build of your own imagination... which for me, always leaves a layer of evil that I truly appreciate. Samson gives us the opportunity to use our own imaginations. This is definitely a slow burn of a horror story. The beginning was almost a bit too slow for my taste and I kept wondering when some action was going to take place. But the brilliance of this read is the INACTION and what that means for the storyline's deeper self. I'm not sure I've ever felt as frustrated towards a characters as I did Moore. *Loud sigh* But within that frustration was also a sympathy and understanding. If you were in Moore's shoes, would you have behaved the same way? I couldn't even imagine. As a fan of The Lottery and Needful Things, it's no wonder The Auctioneer falls in with some of my favorite horror books. Samson brings small town culture and the abuse of power to the forefront. When bringing in human nature and elevating that into a suspenseful, creepy read such as The Auctioneer, I remember why horror written during these times were so subtly brilliant.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex | | findingmontauk1

    It's a surreal thing when you are reading a book written almost 50 years ago that still has some relevance to current political and social events. And it's an even bigger travesty that Joan Samson did not make it around to put out more books... because she's got major chops! She created something, at the time, extremely original, compelling, immersive, and chilling. We get to follow a family who enjoy their simple life in their simple town. They are just going about everyday routines when a stran It's a surreal thing when you are reading a book written almost 50 years ago that still has some relevance to current political and social events. And it's an even bigger travesty that Joan Samson did not make it around to put out more books... because she's got major chops! She created something, at the time, extremely original, compelling, immersive, and chilling. We get to follow a family who enjoy their simple life in their simple town. They are just going about everyday routines when a stranger arrives in town --- an auctioneer. This stranger starts encouraging people to get rid of items they may not need - almost regardless of physical condition - with hopes that the money can be used to expand the town and its police and security. And that is just what the auctioneer wants the townspeople to think, but he has some sinister and nasty agenda on his mind. Essentially, he is trying .... to.... make... the town great... again.... *slams face into wall repeatedly* The town is full of sheeple who just all start falling in line... and it seems no one is really questioning what is going on. Everyone is remaining silent and just giving away their things. It really frosts my cookies watching people witness evil and wrongdoing and not say or do anything... but this was the 70s, so maybe expectations and behaviors were different then. But watching this happen, I thought of myself as Sebastian from The Neverending Story screaming at the characters as if they could hear me. I mean SCREAMING! One time I slung the book to the end of the couch. I was flabbergasted at the whole situation! This book makes you feel uneasy and, at times, a little gross. And when I say gross, that may not be the best word --- maybe 'disgusted' is a better choice. It's a fine line between the two, I know that much.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rob Twinem

    Good old fashioned horror A good old fashioned horror story from the 70's with none off the gratuitous sex and violence offered in so many publications today and sometimes that is no bad thing in fact at times quite refreshing. Set in a small New Hampshire town of Harlowe the story revolves around a hard working farmer John Moore, his wife Miriam (Mim) and their four year old daughter Hildie. This is a close-knit community where families and friends share their lives, loves,problems and successe Good old fashioned horror A good old fashioned horror story from the 70's with none off the gratuitous sex and violence offered in so many publications today and sometimes that is no bad thing in fact at times quite refreshing. Set in a small New Hampshire town of Harlowe the story revolves around a hard working farmer John Moore, his wife Miriam (Mim) and their four year old daughter Hildie. This is a close-knit community where families and friends share their lives, loves,problems and successes. Into this environment steps Perly Dunsmore "The Auctioneer" who spends his time convincing the locals to donate products/items to the local weekly auction all proceeds of which will benefit the community. However as befits all good horror tales nothing is ever quite that simple and it soon becomes clear that Dunsmore has a hidden agenda, and by means of mafia type intimidation hopes to acquire power and riches beyond his wildest dreams.   The locals find themselves in a downward spiral as everything they worked for and paid with sweat and toil is taken by this evil impostor. It is quite easy to draw parallels between dictators such as Hitler or Stalin and in some ways to understand how the charisma and persuasive powers of such individuals can impact on the lives of simple country folks going about their daily tasks in an open and honest fashion. As we head towards an exciting conclusion it is clear that Perly Dunsmore hopes to strip every Harlowe resident of their worldly possessions....unless of course the good people can eradicate this evil before it is too late....

  26. 4 out of 5

    Octavia (ReadsWithDogs)

    "An old-time Yankee auction is the crossroads of America. An old time Yankee auction is where the best of the old meets the best of the new. It's where recycling meets up with the old saying, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' It's where the best of the old-timers meet the best of the newcomers. You've got people on your right and people on your left. You've all got things to offer, and I sincerely hope that this here seventh old time Harlowe auction will help you get together." "An old-time Yankee auction is the crossroads of America. An old time Yankee auction is where the best of the old meets the best of the new. It's where recycling meets up with the old saying, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' It's where the best of the old-timers meet the best of the newcomers. You've got people on your right and people on your left. You've all got things to offer, and I sincerely hope that this here seventh old time Harlowe auction will help you get together." Ouf this book! There's a creeping sense of unease and dread that grows from the very first page. It's wild to think The Auctioneer was written over 40 years ago and yet remains remarkably relevant to today's politics! Basically, a rural New Hampshire farming town changes when a newcomer arrives and dazzles the town with his quick-witted thoughts and fast talking auctions. Before they know what's happening they are suckered in and in true New Englander fashion-- they aren't talking to eachother about how much they've "donated." No one wants to speak out against the newcomer who's bought their town a new ambulance and is intent on making the area great again...sound familiar?! I was sucked into the story and had to keep reading to see just how far these idiotic fools would go before they started getting bristly. Similarities to Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery's are not unfounded.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Martz

    The evil in this book is so relentless and frustrating I thought I was going to get an ulcer reading it. You want the characters to stand up for themselves, to put a stop to it, but they keep letting themselves be bowled over, and the most disturbing thing is that if you were put in their position, you wouldn't do anything differently. Samson has fashioned an airtight plot of implacable, undermining, greedy, logical, progressive evil, the kind of evil that creeps up on you an inch at a time unti The evil in this book is so relentless and frustrating I thought I was going to get an ulcer reading it. You want the characters to stand up for themselves, to put a stop to it, but they keep letting themselves be bowled over, and the most disturbing thing is that if you were put in their position, you wouldn't do anything differently. Samson has fashioned an airtight plot of implacable, undermining, greedy, logical, progressive evil, the kind of evil that creeps up on you an inch at a time until you find yourself wearing it as a shroud. This book is purely, horrifyingly unsettling. Reading just one page or one chapter will not tell you it is a horror novel. There are no werewolves or vampires to spell it out for you. Instead, you have a persistent, ingratiating parasite who knows how to get the population, the law and the politicians on his side, and who takes what he wants one piece at a time like a master chess player until he rules the board. Anyone who has read a Bentley Little book (especially The Store or The Association) will appreciate what must have been a hugely inspiring book for him, and the template for his brand of everyday horror. If you like your books brimming with unease, put The Auctioneer at the top of the list.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This book is truly amazing, incredibly suspenseful and horrifying because it seems so ordinary. I read this book quite a while ago and remember finishing it in a hotel room on some trip I took with my parents (visiting a potential college for me, perhaps?). I simply couldn't put the book down. I think I will have to read it again.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Valancourt Books

    Paperbacks from Hell #13 now available for preorder: Paperback Website Ebook Website Paperbacks from Hell #13 now available for preorder: Paperback Website Ebook Website

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

    I like the basic concept, though it was telegraphed early on. These days, I'm afraid I have little patience for this kind of chatty, gossipy rural Americana. Nice cover.

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