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Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

Updated on December 5, 2018
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An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.

Tubby Is Missing

The students of Elm Haven sit restless in their classes waiting for the school bell to ring for the last time before summer, for the last time before the demolition of the school building in Dan Simmons Summer Of Night.

In various classrooms they sat with nothing to do, fumbling at their desks. All the school books had been turned in for the year and Old Doublebutt, the teacher has instructed the students to read quietly. Instead they looked around trying to amuse themselves as the hands on the clock slowly crept towards the release bell.

In the middle of handing out report cards, a loud scream broke the silence from the basement, the principal, Mr. Roon explaining to everyone that it must be the boiler firing but even the students thought that explanation strange that on the last day of the school year leading into summer the boiler would be turned on.

In fact the noise was something far different, but coming from the basement where the bathrooms were all for some reason located.

A fourth grade student named Tubby Cook was done using the facilities and wasting time before the final bell investigating a hole in the wall where he hoped to hide in wait for the next student to come in. Finding how far back the hole went, Tubby moved between the walls finally coming out at a larger tunnel.

Whatever Tubby saw in that moment, he screamed in terror.

He was never seen alive again.


The family of Tubby Cook demanded that the school be searched as their son never had returned home that evening, but the school tried to convince the mother that their older daughter, a sixth grader named Cordelia had been seen with Tubby at the final bell. Cordie knew that she hadn't walked out with her brother and wanted her revenge on the principal for his lies in the disappearance of her brother.

A Case For The Bike Patrol

It was a stupid name admittedly, especially now in the sixth grade. The members of The Bike Patrol had started their group in grade school and the name had just stuck after all this time. While they had nothing more to do between playing baseball and riding the country roads on their bikes, the boys felt it was their duty as The Bike Patrol to investigate the disappearance of Tubby, as the adults in town were just assuming that he left on his own accord.

Assigning themselves to different areas of town, investigating adults from the school including the janitor that also was known to drive the rendering truck in the off season, an old woman that had worked in the library, and the millionaire family that had donated the school bell; the boys find much more than just a missing child.

Sixty years before when the bell was brought to town it had summoned the darkness and people began to act strangely.

Something was beginning to happen again and it was somehow connected to whatever forces had been at play the first time and not properly silenced.

The Borgia Bell had come by boat to America after the grandfather of the now wealthy Mr. Ashley-Montague, the towns richest resident; had purchased the item and had donated it to the school. On its transport, the bed had already come on a boat that was plagued with sickness, and it was speculated from an Crowley manuscript the bell contained a dark talisman that was never disabled before the item was brought to Elm Haven. The bell was said to be melted down during war time, but was it?

The First Time

With holes opening up under houses in the area and shadowy monsters manifesting, the darkness that was associated with the Borgia Bell seemed to be underfoot in Elm Haven, but it was far from the first time the town had seen the evil and covered it up.

Sixty years before, a young girl's body was found partially eaten in the town. Fearing that a killer was on the run, the then Justice of the Peace had asked a young solider that had returned from the war to help him frame a black man for the crime. Without a proper trial and the only evidence a planted petticoat of the young girl, the man was hung from the school bell in the belfry and his body was left. Eventually the area was boarded up over the years and probably still inside the school on its closing day.

Only the wrong man had been convicted, if the attacks were even performed by a man as zombie creatures were in current day causing the death of several members of the town.

The killings sixty years ago continued as during the summer more and more children went on to go missing.

Echoes of the past were present again in 1960 as the fourth member of the town was dead and buried, followed by a demonic possession of the local priest.

Under investigation, the kids had concluded everything had lead back to the school as the source of all the evil. Since boarded up after the fall of one of the boys, who was pushed out a window after seeing the body of a dead teacher propped up on a table; the children know that they have to get back inside the school to end the reign of terror once and for all.


Cordie Got Her Gun

A strange character in her own right, Cordie Cook might be even weirder than her brother, Tubby.

One of the poorest families in the town, Cordie spent the entire last semester of school wearing the same stained and grayed dress, socks, and presumably from the looks of them, underpants. Like her brother she was obese, with greasy hair hacked off under her ears in a strange haircut.

Unlike her brother, Cordie was fierce.

When no one was taking the disappearance of Tubby seriously, she learned of The Bike Patrol taking up the case and decided to take their side. Marching into town with her shotgun in hand, she fired at Mr. Roon, the principal when he told her that he had no information on Tubby and wouldn't let her look about in the school.

After being shot though, Mr. Roon was completely fine, leading the kids to believe that he was also one of the monsters they had seen around Elm Haven.

With enough evidence to make a move, the others grabbed what guns they could acquire from home and decided that like Cordie, it was time to make a stand at the scene of Tubby's disappearance.


The Army Of The Dead

Inside the school was brimming with the undead.

As the children approached, sneaking in from the bottom level and spreading upwards in battalions armed with pistols and Cordie's shotgun, the threat of the zombies was real.

Those that had since passed were back, possessed and ready to take the next living person out with them if they could. Even Tubby was there, bloated, naked and rotting from the inside out. His skin was pale and waxy with beady eyes that bulged from his eyelids making his face look even more pig-like than in life.

The zombies had lunged at the living and a battle ensued. Realizing that Mr. Roon was the puppet master of the undead, he was attacked and eventually ended.

The demolition of the school never happened that summer, but the bell was never uncovered either. Would the same fate happen again in the next sixty years?

Summer Of Night was a great read similar to that of IT, Stand By Me, and Stranger Things to the point where the book jacket was able to snag a snippet from Stephen King himself.

While the premise of a supernatural evil that only the kids of a small town are able to stop is nothing new in fiction, Summer Of Night had a different feel to it as it strayed from bloody depictions of the action and haunted more subtly with the impressions of what such things might look or sound like in the isolated countryside surrounded by the undead.

The book also has a sequel A Winter Haunting about the adult characters and finding out more truth that has been repressed by their first experience with the evil.


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