Legion (Blatty novel)
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|Author||William Peter Blatty|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Pages||248 (Original Hardcover)|
|LC Class||PS3552.L392 L4 1983|
|Preceded by||The Exorcist|
Legion is a 1983 horror novel by American writer William Peter Blatty, a sequel to The Exorcist. It was adapted into the movie The Exorcist III in 1990, and is part of The Exorcist series. Like The Exorcist, it involves demonic possession. The book was the focus of a court case over its exclusion from The New York Times Best Seller list.
Blatty based aspects of the Gemini Killer on the real life Zodiac Killer, who, in a January 1974 letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, had praised the original Exorcist film as "the best satirical comedy that I have ever seen".
Jesus asked him, saying, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion," because many devils had entered him. (Luke 8:30)
And he asked him, "What is thy name?" And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion: for we are many." (Mark 5:9)
The storyline is a mix of horror and whodunnit, with a police detective, Lieutenant Kinderman, investigating a series of murders that have all the hallmarks of a serial killer who was shot by police (but whose body was never recovered) many years previously. The slayings have a blasphemous theme to them, such as a child crucified, and a priest decapitated. Kinderman's investigations lead him to a mental asylum where there are a number of suspects, including a psychiatrist and one of his own patients. There, Kinderman begins to find links between the victims and events in the previous novel, the exorcism of the twelve-year-old girl, Regan.
Kinderman entertains philosophical thoughts of his own, such as trying to work out how the concept of evil (specifically relating to the murders) fits in with God's plans for humanity. Kinderman frequently alludes to his favorite novel, The Brothers Karamazov, especially when he goes off on a philosophical tangent.
The story opens with the discovery of a twelve-year-old boy who has been murdered and crucified on a pair of rowing oars. Kinderman already sees that the boy is mutilated in a way identical to the victims of a serial killer known as the Gemini Killer, who was apparently shot to death by police twelve years previously while climbing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. A priest is later murdered in a confessional, once again bearing the mutilations distinctive of the apparently-deceased killer. The fingerprints at the two crime scenes differ, however. Further victims soon follow, including one of Kinderman's friends, Father Dyer (from The Exorcist), who is slain in a hospital, his body drained of blood before being decapitated. Yet again the Gemini Killer's mutilations are present.
Investigations lead Kinderman to the psychiatric wing of the hospital where his friend was slain. Here he finds a number of suspects:
- Dr. Freeman Temple - a psychiatrist who has a dismissive and even contemptuous attitude towards his patients.
- Dr. Vincent Amfortas - another doctor at the hospital. He is very mysterious and not very talkative, and is seemingly apathetic toward everything since the recent death of his wife.
- Patients - there are a number of elderly people at the hospital suffering from senile dementia. The fingerprints of different senile patients are found at murder scenes, but interviews with the patients make it clear they are seemingly incapable of carrying out the elaborate killings and mutilations.
- Tommy Sunlight - a mysterious patient, found wandering aimlessly eleven years ago dressed as a priest, who brags of being the Gemini Killer reincarnated and who claims to have carried out the recent murders, even though he logically could not have done so, being secured in a locked cell in a straitjacket. At one point he claims the doctors and nurses let him out to kill. He also looks identical to Damien Karras, a priest who supposedly died in The Exorcist by falling down a flight of stairs.
- James Vennamun - the actual Gemini Killer himself. His body was never found, suggesting he may have survived and is resuming his crimes.
In the end, the implication is that the Gemini Killer possessed the body of Damien Karras and spent many years trying to gain control of the body, during which time Karras was held in a mental hospital. He lacked any identification and was nicknamed Sunlight because he sat in the sun's rays as it passed through the window of his cell. Upon finally gaining control of Karras' body, the Gemini occasionally left it to possess the bodies of the patients suffering from senile dementia, and as they were in an open ward with access to the outside world, he could use them to go forth and commit murders. This is why the fingerprints of several senility patients were found at the crime scenes; their bodies carried out the murders but the Gemini Killer was in control of them.
The Gemini's motive originally was to shame his father, a preacher, whom he hated. When his father dies of natural causes the Gemini Killer feels his mission is over and he has no reason to remain in possession of Karras' body. Feeling compelled to explain everything to Kinderman, he summons the detective, explains all of this, successfully demands that Kinderman tells him he believes that he (Sunlight) really is the Gemini Killer, and then effectively wills himself to die from heart failure.
Dr. Temple suffers a stroke and ends up mentally disabled. Dr. Amfortas dies in a home accident after being repeatedly terrorized by a possible evil doppelganger of himself (although he was terminally ill anyway, suffering from a disease he refused to treat so he could join his deceased wife).
The final chapter of the novel, an epilogue, has Kinderman at a burger-bar with his faithful partner, Atkins. Kinderman explains to Atkins his thoughts and musings of the whole case and how it relates to his problem of the concept of evil. Kinderman ends by concluding that he believes the Big Bang was Lucifer falling from heaven, and that the entire Universe, including humanity, are the broken parts of Lucifer, and that evolution is the process of Lucifer putting himself back together as an angel.
New York Times best-seller list court case
In 1983, author William Peter Blatty sued the New York Times for 6 million dollars claiming that Legion had not been included in The New York Times Best Seller list due to either negligence or intentional falsehood, saying it should have been included based on sales figures. The Times countered that the list was not mathematically objective but was editorial content and thus protected under the Constitution as free speech. Blatty appealed it to the Supreme Court which declined to hear the case; thus the lower court ruling stood that the list was editorial content, not objective factual content - and the Times had the right to exclude books from the list.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Legion was adapted into a movie, The Exorcist III, in 1990, directed by Blatty and starring George C. Scott as Lieutenant Kinderman and Brad Dourif and Jason Miller alternating as Sunlight (although the name Sunlight is not actually given to the character in the movie; he is referred to as simply "the man in Cell 11" or "Patient X").
Both the novel and film ignore the events of the 1977 film Exorcist II: The Heretic, a theatrical sequel with which Blatty had no involvement.
On 15 March 2010, WildClaw Theatre in Chicago premiered the theatrical version. It was directed by Anne Adams and adapted by Charley Sherman.
- "The Exorcist III Info, Trailers, and Reviews at MovieTome". Movietome.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "Zodiac Killer : The Letters - 01-29-1974". SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle). 2 December 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- Laura J. Miller (2000). "The Best-Seller List as Marketing Tool and Historical Fiction". In Ezra Greenspan (editor). Book History. Volume Three. Penn State Press. pp. 286–304.
- "The Gemini Killer Heads to the Theatre in Legion".