Literature / The Bad Place

The Bad Place is a 1990 horror novel by Dean Koontz.

Frank Pollard is a man on the run. He has no memory of who he is or what's chasing him—only that he's pretty sure it's a what and not a who. Julie and Robert Dakota are a husband and wife team of PrivateDetectives, trying to build their company and finance a future they call The Dream.

Frank Pollard turns to them for help figuring out who he is, where he goes when he falls asleep, and ultimately drags them into his fight against the monster chasing him.


This novel provides examples of:

  • A-Team Firing: Ramussen's gunmen tear Bobby's surveillance van apart with More Dakka but he completely escapes injury by laying on the floor.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Violet and Verbina share a constant mind link with each other and the dozens of cats occupying their home. Craving wild and evocative sensation, they often drift outward to possess the bodies of hunting animals and their prey to feel both the thrill of the hunt and the pain of death. They cannot do this to humans however.
  • Author Appeal: Typical of Dean Koontz, the Dakotas are heavily into swing music. There's regular mention of what songs they listen to and they both extensively know the musicians who played with Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Dakotas are alive, traumatized by the supernatural horror they witnessed, and grieving the loss of their friends and coworkers, and Thomas.
  • Body Horror: The terrible thing that Candy and Frank become in the end when Frank attempts to Tele-Frag the both of them. The final discrete form of the combined Pollard brothers is seven feet tall, has a sloped mouth between Frank's misaligned eyes and a second mouth in its cheek; the second face in its chest has one of Candy's eyes and another eye socket which is full of teeth. Their last living moments are spent as a quivering mass of flesh with still-living rodents and roaches melded into it.
  • Breaking and Bloodsucking: Used as Candy's introduction. Candy isn't an actual vampire but a teleporting super-human psycho who has a taste for blood, and blood drinking is the only sexual release he knows. He breaks into the teenage girl's room first. She awakens during the attack but his strength and size is overpowering, he bites her throat open and drinks until she dies. He attacks her older brother next and smothers him so he can't fight back before he feeds. Deciding to take his time with their mother, he climbs into bed with her, beats her unconscious before she recognizes him as a stranger, and then suckles from a bite in her palm.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The duffel bag Frank hauls around turns out to be full of bound twenties and hundreds, he estimates roughly $150,000.
  • Bury Your Disabled:
    • Candy deliberately goes after Down's Syndrome-afflicted Thomas in his nursing home, because Thomas was using his own psychic powers to help his sister protect Frank from his murderous brother.
    • Candy is in pursuit of the Dakotas and goes after their second in command, Clint Karaghiosis. He teleports to their house and finds his wife, Felina, glancing at a magazine. Felina is deaf and can't hear the wind displaced by his teleportation or his footsteps nearby. Candy studies her while she's unaware of his presence and experiences perhaps the closest thing he ever feels to sexual arousal; compelling him to force Felina down and drink her blood.
  • Car Fu: Julie is racing around the Decodyne building to save Bobby as goons blow the surveillance van to pieces. She has multiple guns but she's so desperate to save him that she just ducks downs, stomps the gas pedal, and runs one of the gunmen over. When she raises her head she finds that he's dead and partially wedged inside her car.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Violet and Verbina surround themselves with a flock of cats that they are permanently mentally linked with.
  • Creepy Twins: Violet and Verbina share each other's thoughts and sensations as well as those of animals. Since people are immune to their ability, they can't identify with them and thus keep distant from other humans; especially Verbina, who has retreated into a sort of autism and communicates only through her sister. While they're not necessarily evil, they have the moral ambivalence of animals.
  • Disability Superpower: Thomas has Down's Syndrome but possesses mysterious telepathic powers.
  • Dramatic Chase Opening: Provides the trope page quote! The novel begins with Frank awakening in an alley with no memory of who he is or why he's there. If that wasn't enough to make him uneasy, he instinctively feels that he's in danger; there's an eerie whisper in the wind and strange, half-forgotten thought about "Fireflies in a windstorm" accompanying it. Frank begins his escape down the alley shortly after stealing a car he's attacked by a powerful entity that starts tearing the car to pieces with an unseen force. This initial chase makes up Frank's first few chapters of the back, in between chapters setting the main protagonists Bobby and Julie Dakota.
  • Driven to Suicide: Clint takes Felina's body to the bedroom, lays her on the bed, then shoots himself; all while Candy watches from the hallway, absolutely confused as to why a man would kill himself over losing a woman.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Bobby's surveillance van is shot to pieces by goons, he's miraculously unhurt on the floor but soon smells gas from the ruptured fuel tank. Julie kills the gunmen and she gets him out of the van before it goes up in a fireball.
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire: Frank hotwires a car to escape from the thing pursuing him from the alley, just reaching under the dashboard and fiddling with the wires. He wasn't even aware he could do it.
  • Hemo Erotic: Drinking blood is the closest thing to sexual release for Candy because he was born with four testicles and no penis. This is the ultimate reason he murders Felina Karaghiosis; Candy is aroused by a vitality he can sense within her and compels him to drink her blood.
  • Hermaphrodite: Roselle Pollard is fully reproductively functional as both sexes, and by self-impregnation gives birth to her bizarre clan of Frank, Candy, and the Creepy Twins.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Frank's uncontrolled, subconscious teleportation abilities wouldn't be this trope, except that he frequently visits an alien planet where space lobsters are used to grow red diamonds. Not to mention, every time he jumps, he suffers a small Teleporter Accident.
  • More Dakka: Rasmussen is onto the Dakotas spying on him and the payoff for stealing Decodyne's program is so much that he hires a pair of goons to get rid of Bobby. These two pull up next to Bobby's surveillance van with automatic weapons and proceed to blast the thing to pieces with multiple magazines...and don't even scratch Bobby who is laying on the floor.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: Bobby lays on the floor of his van as its being shot to pieces, and he envisions what would happen if he got up from cover and tried to escaped—stepping out and immediately being gunned down, jerking and twitching as he's riddled with bullets.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: Frank is carrying a duffel bag that he only assumes is his. When he has a moment to rest and investigate, he opens the bag and finds a driver's license and passport with his picture and two different names.
  • No Biological Sex: Candy, child of a Hermaphrodite with him/herself has four undescended testicles (with a bony shelf in the way) and no external genitalia. He channels his necessarily-repressed sexuality into homicidal rages.
  • Not Rare Over There: Frank teleports to another planet in his sleep and comes back with pockets full of red diamonds, enough to be worth a considerable fortune here on Earth.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Frank killed his Hermaphrodite mother Roselle, who self-conceived all of her children, which is why Candy pursues him, hell-bent on revenge.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Frank sometimes shifts to a world covered in gigantic worker bugs. It turns out the bugs have been genetically engineered to eat dirt from mines and excrete red diamonds.
  • Spies in a Van: The Dakotas are staking out the Decodyne Corporation at the start of the novel, waiting for their crooked night watchman to steal their latest program for a competitor. Julie is well behind the building in a car to provide backup for her husband—Bobby is in a van filled with surveillance equipment doing the actual watching and recording of the crime. Unfortunately, the thief spotted Bobby despite the Dakotas using multiple vans and trucks for the stake-out and hired goons to try and kill him.
  • Tangled Family Tree: The present Pollard family—co-protagonist Frank, villain "Candy", and their sisters Violet and Verbena—have two great-grandparents instead of the usual eight, two grandparents (who were brother and sister) instead of the usual four, and one genetic parent, a hermaphrodite who self-impregnated.
  • Tele-Frag: The ultimate fate of Frank and Candy—Frank grabs his brother and rapidly teleports without caring about preserving their separate forms.
  • Teleportation Misfire: Frank can teleport, but suffering from amnesia, he does it unconsciously and goes all over the place, especially while sleeping. His powers aren't under control until near the end of the novel, when he regains his memory.
  • Twin Telepathy: Verbina and Violet have a psychic bond to each other, as well as the ability to form a telepathic link with all nonhuman animals.
  • Unfortunate Names: Candy, teleporting blood-drinking serial killer. Lampshaded when Clint declares that he isn't afraid of any man named Candy. Candy's birth name is James, but he uses the nickname given to him his much-adored mother.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Candy drinks blood but he's no mythological vampire; he tears open women's throats with his teeth so he can drink the blood their hearts pump out.
  • Villain Teleportation: Frank Pollard and his insane brother Candy both have the ability to teleport. Frank can't control where he goes, when he goes, and how he reassembles himself. With Candy its more reliable and controlled, allowing him to pursue Frank and murder Thomas and Felina, escape being shot dead by Clint, and kidnap Julie to force a final confrontation.
  • Villainous Incest: Perhaps the ultimate example— Candy was produced by his hermaphroditic mother, who was the product of brother-on-sister rape, artificially inseminating herself.
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