The Totem

Title: The Totem
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Buy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleScribSmashwordsKoboiTunesAudible


A three-time recipient of the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, David is as highly regarded for his dark suspense as he is for his thrillers.  The two go together.  Thrillers are about excitement--horror is about fear. In The Totem, there is plenty of both.

When police chief Nathan Slaughter settles in the tiny mountain community of Potter’s Field, Wyoming, his most fervent prayer is that he has left behind him forever the nightmare he barely survived on a blizzardy night in Detroit. But nothing prepares him for the greater sanity-threatening nightmare he is about to confront. Beginning with the discovery of mutilated cattle on outlying ranches, Slaughter is drawn deeper and deeper into a vortex of terror as animals become savage and children go insane, trapping the entire town in a frenzy of violence. As Slaughter races against time to expose the horrifying secret behind the increasingly savage attacks, he also struggles to overcome his deepest fears.

The Totem has a chapter devoted to it in Horror: 100 Best Books. Originally published in 1979, its influence continues.


"Something is on the prowl in the forests and foothills outside the small Wyoming town of Potter's Field, something that mutilates but does not feed, that kills indiscriminately and without reason, at night, by moonlight. As the body count mounts, police chief Nathan Slaughter and the town's medical examiner try to find out who or what is doing the killing...Morrell embeds compelling human drama in a taut, hell-for-leather plot consisting of equal parts police procedural, medical detective story, biological horror story, disaster novel and Gothic thriller. Beneath its multi-genre surface, The Totem engages broader sociological issues...A thriller of rare ambition and achievement, as thought-provoking as it is exciting and scary."
Washington Post Book World 

“One of the finest horror novels of the past 20 years.”
Washington Post Book World 

“One of the ten scariest of all time.”
The Rocky Mountain News


Not many authors write the same book twice. This is the version of The Totem that I submitted to my publisher in 1978. My then-editor didn't understand what I was trying to do and insisted that the book be severely cut. In those days, I didn't have the bestselling power to disagree. The excised version is the one that was published in 1979. In the early 1990s, I came across the original manuscript and replaced the 1979 version. This "complete and unaltered" text is twice as long, with a different style and a different beginning and ending. The 1979 version is extremely fast, but I prefer the epic feel of this one. The e-book edition of The Totem contains both versions. But if you prefer the feel of a beautiful book, the specialty publisher Donald M. Grant released a gorgeous hardback edition of the complete version of The Totem, reasonably priced.