Wayne C. Rogers’ Thoughts on Eric Red’s ‘Don’t Stand So Close’
Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
Have you ever had a crush on your junior high school teacher, or a high school teacher, or even a professor in college? This question is directed as much to the ladies as to the men. I know I did when growing up. My first crush goes as far back as the sixth grade when I had a total crush on the teacher in the next room. I couldn’t get my mind off of her. I even used to ride my little bicycle past her house on occasion. Today, that would be called stalking.
Well, Don’t Stand So Close by Eric Red raises it up a notch and increases the stakes as this dark novel delves into obsession, perverted sex, and murder in the first degree.
The story centers on seventeen-year-old Matt Poe, who has just moved from California to a small town in Iowa, and it’s not near Field of Dreams, either. Matt’s mother is a teacher, and this is where her new job has taken her. I come from a southern town where everybody knows you and your business. I therefore understood the culture shock Matt goes through at being the new kid on the block in a small mid-western community. Since Matt is a good-looking California teenager, it isn’t long before he makes friends with Rusty and Grace. Rusty is a strange kid, who stays by himself, but is smart with a high IQ. Grace is also smart, a cheerleader, the girlfriend of the football captain, and the daughter of the local sheriff. Matt, however, only eyes for his teacher, Linda Hayden. Naturally, she’s older, great looking, sexual in every sense of the word, and seems to have an eye for the new kid in school.
It isn’t long before Ms. Hayden offers to tutor Matt after school, and it isn’t long before one thing leads to another and the two are doing the hanky-panky. In fact, Matt quickly becomes obsessed with the teacher and the hot sex they have. Things, however, aren’t what they seem. Within a short span of time, other kids start dying in ways which seem like an accident but isn’t. Matt soon grows leery of Ms. Hayden, especially when he finds himself developing feelings for Grace in an unexpected way. The teacher is certainly steadfast in what she wants. She refuses to let Matt go. You see Ms. Hayden has plans for Matt…plans that will destroy his life in ways he could never dream or suspect. Ms. Hayden is a sexual predator of the worse kind and Matt isn’t her first victim. What started out as a fantasy fulfilled quickly turns into a nightmare that simply won’t go away.
As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”
Eric Red, the author, is generally known for his screenplay writing and directing. He wrote the great cult films The Hitcher (1986) and Near Dark (1987) and Blue Steel (1989), plus the revised version of The Hitcher (2007) with two other screenwriters. Though he’s also written a number of short stories in the suspense genre, Don’t Stand So Close is his first novel. My only question is what took him so long to finally write a book?
Mr. Red is clearly a very talented author who sees descriptive imagery with the eyes of a screenwriter and director. He captures everything perfectly in his novel from the personalities of the characters, the hunger a student has for his teacher, the atmosphere of small-town life, and the edge-of-your-seat suspense that keeps you wondering what will happen next. I not only hope Don’t Stand So Close won’t be Eric Red’s only novel, but that it will be turned into a feature film in the near future. Though this actress is older than I imagined Linda Hayden to be, I kept seeing her face in the role of the teacher—Lena Olin. She would be the perfect Linda Hayden.
All in all, Don’t Stand So Close was a pleasant surprise I greatly enjoyed. This novel does for high school students what the movie, Fatal Attraction, did for married men back during the late eighties. Keep the fantasy in your mind and your zipper pulled up no matter how strong the allure.
That’s how you stay sane and alive.
Great review, Wayne. I’ll definitely check this one out.
Red’s one of those creative types that I felt has never really gotten his due. Undervalued and overlooked; loved his directorial pieces ‘Cohen and Tate’, ‘Body Parts’ and the Famke Janssen top-lined horror thriller, ‘100 Feet’.