The best Guy N. Smith novels are the ones with a simple premise, the sort of thing that can be summarised in a few words – big, nasty crabs, for example, or deadly locusts, killer Mummy, evil Punch and Judy Show, etc. This list is not exhaustive. It’s difficult to sum up ‘Mania’ so succinctly, but it’s something along the lines of ‘snow storm forces normal people to take refuge in a guest house in Donnington run by sadists and populated by lunatics and perverts. Oh, and Satan has made one of the residents pregnant’.
The hellish hotel / asylum is only sketchily realised, a kind of ‘Fawlty Towers’ where Basil is a religious maniac and flasher, Sybil a torturer, Manuel an occult book collector, Polly a compulsive masturbator and Terry the chef a lascivious alcoholic tramp. The heating doesn’t work, the toilets won't flush, the Devil lives in the basement and there’s always stodgy pie and cold chips for tea.
‘Mania’ is rambling and muddled but, rather in the style of a good shaggy dog story, it does keep your attention as it is being told, even though you know it’s ultimately going to end with the realisation that you’ve been wasting your time. Its main issue is that it is rather subdued, as if Smith didn’t necessarily have enough confidence in the story and characters to do what he does best: put his foot down and go fucking mental.
Naturally, that doesn't stop Guy from hyping his own work from the very beginning, over egging this particular souffle with the following startling, completely untrue pre-prologue statement:
You are about to embark upon a journey into the darkest recesses of the human mind, an exploration of the unknown. Travel at your peril for your safety, your sanity cannot be guaranteed. For some there may be no return.
It's like putting a 'Danger of Drowning' sign on a foot spa.