Robert Swindells presents the character of Shelter in many different ways in the novel ‘Stone Cold’. Swindells gives Shelter-a psychopathic, ex-military, mass murderer-a deadly personality that’s extremely terrifying but also curiously intriguing at the same time. In Stone Cold, the Daily Routine Orders is where we get special glimpses of events through Shelter’s eyes. Shelter speaks and thinks in a peculiar way- like a well educated, normal person.
But what he says throughout the book shows the utter craziness behind the carefully crafted façade that lures ‘garbage’ to their deaths. “Shelter. Yes. I like it. It’s got a ring to it as I’m sure you’ll agree” from the first entry shows nothing of abnormality. The way he says it probably sounds even, serene and peaceful. “Well-get fell in, my lucky lads. I’m ready for you” from the same entry shows the growing craziness in Shelter’s mind, his tone as frightening as a predator’s. As the novel progresses, the craziness gradually grows with it. “They’re all part of a plot, see?
There’s a plot-it’s been hatching a long time now-……” from the later entries shows his hysterical state of mind while he’s plotting his plan as his tone grew more and more agitated. “They look so sweet, the two of them side by side, that I keep going down for another look. I must be getting soft” from entry 7; Shelter says it like he might be cooing over a baby, so sickly sweet that it’s revolting to even process how he could’ve ever done this unfathomable action. When Shelter’s out ‘recruiting’, he did his best ‘do-gooder’ appearance— a kind smile and some good choice of words.
He would wear thick wool sweaters and cord trousers—‘what do-gooders wear’. He would make some sympathetic comments or rueful gestures and suddenly come up with a great offer of a meal and shelter and he would lead unsuspecting homeless to the lion’s den. He went so far to create a ‘harmless, old guy’ image that he even bought a black and white cat and christened him Sappho. His houses would show no evidence of any previous activities taking place, and he would go about the kitchen to prepare tomato soup.
All these actions would not scream serial killer. However, Shelter was trained to kill. And when he goes for the kill, he does not hold anything back. He knows the exact spot to hit, and his third victim was dead by a cat’s bowl. When he targeted Ginger, he had made his living room looked like somebody was lying and bleeding heavily under a blanket. He goes for the kill when Ginger was lifting the blanket, but Ginger must have fought back a bit, as his face was barely recognisable to Link at the end of the novel.
Also, we know he has loads of strength in those old bones from the fight he had with Link. But the most disturbing thing out of all Shelter’s horrendous actions was that he actually took care of his ‘army’. He lays them out the ‘army way’-tallest on the left, shortest on the right. He had their hair cut so short you can’t distinguish their gender, he cleans them up as they have clean clothes on and he specially bought them shiny army boots. This really shines a light on Shelter’s unstable state of mind and that he’s determined to achieve any goal that has been set.
Shelter may seem to be a heartless, psychopathic murderer, but who is really to blame? He was in the military, where they changed the way you think and function to make you kill a significant amount of humans. Enemies, but still humans. They were the ones who turned Shelter into what we know him as through the book—a human killing machine. They would also know that Shelter was mentally unstable when they released him from his position as Sergeant-Major in the military.
They should take some responsibility for setting a wild man-programmed to kill-loose into the public society. Robert Swindells presented the character of Shelter in the novel very effectively and it really shows from the very beginning what kind of person Swindells want the reader to see Shelter as. Despite being the smaller part in the novel, Shelter’s character is the most interesting and the clearest presented. Shelter’s character has contributed a lot in the appealingness of Stone Cold and it’s undeniably the greatest part of the novel.