Kerry E.B. Black loves words and entices them to create tales both fanciful and true. Haling from a small town situated along a fog enshrouded river outside of the City of Steel and Bridges in Pennsylvania, USA, Kerry incorporates Yankee sensibilities and a strong work ethic into every project. Some of Kerry's works have crept into anthologies and literary sites, and she writes for www.oneyearofletters.com, www.Halloweenforevermore.com and www.GamesOmniverse.com . She’s also a first reader for Postcard Poems and Prose. Kerry welcomes you to follow her on other social media sites as well, including: https://twitter.com/BlackKerryblick
Devil House by John Darnielle is convoluted. Despite its cool cover, it is not a horror story, per se, though much about it is horrific. With rapidly switching perspectives and storylines, it’s more like a confusing grouping of short stories linked by location. Or by narrator. Or something.
At its heart, I think it’s the story of a successful true crime author who purchases a piece of realty called the Devil House with a lot of history with the idea of writing about the murders. (The building was most recently used as a porn store, which is where the murder of the land lady and a perspective buyer were murdered by some squatting teens.) Because of the staging of the crime, the attitude of the perpetrators, and the time (the murders took place in 1986), a Satanic Panic could have ensued, but somehow did not.
This place is in a California town where another true crime occurred, which a different true crime writer wrote about and which was made into a film which boosted the notoriety. Unhappy with the result, the local folks are reluctant to share information with someone who could potentially exploit them again. However, this author tries to present all perspectives and motivations.
Perhaps to show the true crime writer’s perspective and method, the book jumps to tell the story of the White Witch, a true crime he had written about and which had been made into a film.
Then he begins to speak forsoothly, as though the narrator was from a medieval castle. Or something. I think this is how the sword the murderers used was acquired? Or insight into the author’s personal history?
There are many pov shifts, time changes, and the like throughout. (Thank heavens for chapter titles which act as giggling guides)
I’d be lying if I said I really understood this book, especially as it was marketed. I believe it is a look into the viability of writing itself. Or a deep dive into a writer’s process.
If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear your perspective on it.
The action of Adam Cesare’s Clown in a Cornfield 2 takes place one year after the traumatizing events of the first book. Quinn attends a university in Philly, and her friends drive to visit with her on campus. The action begins with a bang, and the tension remains high throughout this sequel.
Whereas the insighting motivation in book one posed a generational clash, this second book points out the potential for social media exploitation, misinformation, and hidden bigotry. Like online trolls, Frendo’s army hides their identies. Their hatred focuses on the emerging sexual freedoms and pronouncements of the younger generation. All of the survivors from the first Frendo incident experience and cope with PTSD. They use their trauma to develop their survivor mentalities. This is a crazy, action-packed slasher with strong teen characters, including a charming new (and personal favorite) character.
Adam Cesare bursts onto the YA/NA writing scene with his slasher Clown in a Cornfield. In it, teenager Quinn and her MD father leave Philadelphia behind after Quinn’s mother OD’d. Her dad’s taking over the medical practice in a small rural town, and it doesn’t take long to feel the place’s generational tension. Before too long, Quinn has a group of friends who invite her to a huge party in a cornfield. Enter the creepy, unofficial mascot of the town, Frendo, and the Clown in a Cornfield gory goodness ensues. I had no trouble visualizing the gory action and think Hollywood should woo Mr. Cesare, as the visceral writing would make an effective horror film.
At the beginning of Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s novel Wake the Bones, lead protagonist Laurel returns to her small-town Kentucky home where something stirs. Laurel dabbles in death as a taxidermist, but when her bones leave of their own accord, she and her friends face a supernatural terror, one that pursued Laurel’s departed mother. This book mixes YA horror, magic, and action with the lush feel of a Southern Gothic. Dark themes thread through the narrative, which is told through multiple perspectives. Although all of the characters face personal hardships and significant challenges, their friendships warmed the chilling story of facing devils, real and metaphorical.
The title of the novel Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly refers to a song “Baby Blue” which played on repeat during a gruesome murder of a family. The story is then told by the only survivor of that massacre, a young woman intent on learning more about the horrific event that destroyed her family. When she discovers the house where the murder took place is for sale, she feels compelled to not only tour the place. She decides it would help her feel closer to her deceased family if she resides there. This book is a compelling thriller with extreme horror elements. It also includes darkly humorous passages in its pages. Many parts of it made me uncomfortable, including the conduct of the lead, especially since I spent so much time in the lead’s confused mind. That, I am certain, was the author’s “evil” intention!
Nothing terrifies like an unexpected sound on a creepy night. Alone on a couch, housesitting one autumn evening, a bowl of buttered popcorn resting upon a lap wrapped in a Sherpa-soft blanket, a classic horror film flickering on a television so ancient it requires an antenna.
Ears prick.A squeak of an overhead floorboard in an otherwise abandoned house. A groan emitted by the long-disused hinge of a door leading to a decaying basement Poe would admire. The sigh of the wind sneaking into a home believed secure, one betraying its sole inhabitant by seemingly allowing admittance to specters.
Catherine Prendergast attempts to make sense of the bohemian artistic vision of Carmel-by-the-sea, CA, especially through the lens of two women’s experiences in her book, The Gilded Edge. This place was meant to foster free-thinking, but for “Carrie” Sterling, wife of poet and womanizer George Sterling (who is not shown in a good light at all), her time at Carmel couldn’t have been more “traditional.” She hosted literary salons ad nauseum, juggled finances, and endured countless humiliations, especially from her husband. She set aside her own aspirations to boost those of her husband.
This book’s subtitle is “Two audacious women and the cyanide love triangle that shook America.” Nora Mae French, a beautiful American poet, makes the second of these audacious women. Snippets of her poetry and personal correspondence grace the pages as well as an account of her many “exploits.” Nora French enjoyed the company of men, even that of some married gents. This book peeks into her life and death. Nora may have decided to end her young life because of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. This death by cyanide was poorly investigated by the authorities but sensationalized by the press. In fact, several subsequent suicides were blamed on Ms. French’s poetry. Interestingly, all the funeral arrangements and settling of Nora’s personal estate were handled by the Sterlings (who used the tragedy as an opportunity to promote their realty interests.)
This is the basic framework of this book of non-fiction. The author includes a cast of literary luminaries including the notorious Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, and Upton Sinclair. The author attempts to show the difficulties of running a “utopia,” including the financial concerns, delegation of tasks and egos, and image management.
After her death, the Sterlings burned most of Nora Mae French’s property. Many of the primary research sources include little about these pivotal players, which the author communicates in gentle asides. (She interrupts with apologies to explain her frustrations, which gives the work a conversational feel.) Given these difficulties, this book presented a glimpse into interesting, sometimes pretentious, and often forgotten lives.
Honeymooners make a stop in Jayson Robert Ducharme’s Fables to Depart By. This couple finds a mysterious roadside attraction that catches more than their interest – and their experience forms the foundation for the stories. And the stories! There are ten unique offerings, all dealing in some way with mortality, all designed to make you think long after you’ve completed reading. There’s a heartbreaking deal with death personified. A killer storm. Who knew heaven was on Venus? Monsters and possessions. Cannibals and Ghosts and oodles of gore. Some stories incorporate fantastic elements and others are threaded with dark humor. One of my favorites involved a couple who survived a car accident only to face something worse when they find shelter. Yet the one that produced the most visceral reaction was named The Tooth Fairy.
One of my favorite parts of this book was the interaction involving art. “Is art not an act of expression that lives on, long past the mortality of the artist?” Which Ducharme contends makes art galleries places where the dead speak. Beautiful!
In all, this collection shows the creativity of a talented writer.