Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cover by Jack Ketchum

Most people regard horror as the retarded second cousin of "real" literature. On the other hand, most people don't know what they're talking about. There's an assumption that horror fiction, by definition, can't possibly encompass the beauty of the classics alongside its trademark brutality. Jack Ketchum proves the naysayers wrong with this one.

Cover tells the story of an Vietnam war vet named Lee who is experiencing flashbacks so fierce that he's exiled himself to the woods with his wife, son and dog. Plagued by paranoia and making a living by growing marijuana for a man named McCann, Lee soon finds himself alone in the woods, as his wife and son have left for fear of their own safety. Lee's delusions are just getting worse when McCann informs him that there is a thief on the loose in the forest, stealing from some of the other growers in the area. When a young group of campers on a weekend getaway happen upon Lee's crop he snaps into action, prepared to do anything to protect his livelihood, all while being plagued by the ghosts of his past.

Ketchum's writing style is vastly different in this novel than most fans are used to. Gone are the blunt and vicious descriptions of violence and depravity, replaced with stark realism and a hauntingly beautiful descriptiveness. Some of the scenes in this book will seduce you at the same time as they chill you to the bone. The amount of research that the author put into this piece of work is also an incredibly formidable achievement. Ketchum speaks at length about this in the introduction of the Leisure MMPB (2009) reprint of this novel.

I'm going to go on the record and state that this is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Ketchum's ability to make the reader feel sympathy for those you ought to shy away from is incredible. Throughout the novel you fear for the safety of the campers, all the while feeling sorry for the eternally cursed protagonist, Lee. It's a different brand of horror writing - one we see way too seldom in this day and age.

Highly recommended book (and author).

PBH

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