Just a two novels I’ve read recently. One was a very pleasant surprise.
1. Those Across the River – Christopher Buehlman
This novel was an enormous surprise. It’s hard to find beautifully written horror, but Buehlman has done it. Before he was a novelist (or a successful novelist at least) he was a noted poet and a actor who specialized in renaissance theatre.
It’s 1935. Frank Nichols, failed academic, married to a women he stole from a colleague, has fled to the small town of Whitbrow to recover from his mistakes, his post-traumatic stress disorder from the war, and ostensibly write a novel on a long-lost relative who died in a plantation slave rebellion.
But Whitbrow is an odd place. Strange religions rituals, a part of the woods no one ever goes, a strange naked boy in the woods. The town has a deep secret of which it might not even be aware.
This is a well-made novel with fabulous, terse dialogue, fine historical detail, and the atmosphere of post-war, racist America feels natural and real. I won’t get into the plot too much, but it almost takes a back seat to the inner life of the protagonist, and the finely-woven tapestry of a small Southern town. That isn’t to say it’s not scary – there’s a scene in the woods which is equal to anything by Stephen King. Think Hemingway mixed with a little Stephen King.
Get this book now and support great writing. The genre needs it.
2. The House of Skin – Jonathan Janz
Paul Carver has inherited a fabulous estate from a long-lost relative. Of course, it’s haunted by the world’s most shrewish and murderous dead wife, who has no intention of staying dead.
Carver meets a beautiful young woman named Julia, who has already murdered a would-be rapist, and together they have to face the frightening spector of Annabel Carver, wife of Myles Carver.
Many people compare this novel to the works of late and lamented goremeister Richard Laymon. I think it’s closer to John Farris, most notably his novel Disturb Not the Dream, with the backstories and the looming sense of repeating history, although without the Farris’s creepy sexiness.
It’s a fine novel, easy-to-read, with generous slatherings of tasty pulp. A welcome addition.