For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Ron Rash, Donald Ray Pollock, and Stephen Graham Jones is William Gay. An Appalachian gothic writer, Gay’s prose shines in its terrifying nature. In Twilight, a brother and sister hope to bring a small Tennessee town’s corrupt mortician to justice. The pair dig up graves, discovering that bodies are not embalmed, not clothed, and even mutilated. Tyler, the brother, even steals a briefcase from the mortician’s car trunk that houses incriminating photographs.
What follows is a cat and mouse game: an escape from a hired murderer, a dash for his life, and run-ins with witches and old men along the way. The structure of the novel is similar to McCarthy’s The Road. As Tyler tries to escape the man hired to kill him, he travels through the wilderness, running into characters along the way: a woman he tries to steal from who forces him to do a chore, an old man rocking on his farm porch, a witch who promises to be able to deliver a hex. It reminded me of the man and the boy’s journey to survive, running into groups of good, and especially evil, people. The reader lives the journey with Tyler as he runs for his life and doesn’t mind the winding open-ended adventure throughout the second half of the novel.
Not only does the novel feel inspired by The Road, but there are also tinges of inspiration seen from McCarthy’s novel Child of God, a novel about Lester Ballad, a twisted man who desecrates corpses, similar to the undertaker of Twilight. It is easy to see similarities and inspiration in the fact that Gay also forgoes traditional punctuation, not using quotation marks for dialogue. I see heavy influence between the two Southern Gothic writers.
Charles D’Ambrosio says of Twilight in Paste Magazine, the novel “will likely divide readers into two camps – those who love the Southern Gothic element and those who don’t.” The Southern Gothic element and the story being set in the past in a historical context may seem unlikely to lend itself to horror, but the way it functions with the darkness of the story comes together. D’Ambrosio continues to say that “The story is death-drenched, the characters hardly seem to belong to the last century, the language is torqued with rhetorical flourishes, and the plot is packed full of cruel and gruesome events that feel as if an entire culture were emptying the repressed contents of its gloomy psyche into the world.” This melding of literary techniques and horrific content will be sure to please any fan of Southern Gothic authors or horror writers situating themselves in a region-specific legacy.(5 / 5)
What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit
- Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
- Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
- Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show
They all have a past, but who is out to get them?
Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.
From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.
I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.
Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!(5 / 5)
“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut
Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.
I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.
Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.
Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.
The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.
This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.
Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.(5 / 5)
Buy it here!
A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”
“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?” — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.
The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.
Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.
This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.
It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.(4 / 5)