Bad Moon Books
Trade Paper, 114 pages, $18.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Good intentions; it is said that the road to hell is paved with them. In Blood Spring, by Erik Williams, an act of human kindness leads to inhumane horrors. This very compact and linear narrative savages the sanctity of civilized behavior. The complacency of cultural comfort is raped by rural brutality. This is territory covered in Deliverance, and in the films of director Sam Peckinpah. To his credit, author Williams takes the well trod path and infuses it with a visceral vitality.
The book’s de rigueur mild mannered protagonist, Henry Jacobs, is acquiescent and quietly seething. His wife Claire has nursed back to health a deer she found injured from an accident. During the six months of its healing, Henry has suffered internally. He allows the garage to be appropriated as a hospital/nursery for the recovering animal; he shovels its excrement. What taxes his emotional endurance to the max, though, is Claire’s affection for the beast. Although comprehending her sublimation of maternal instincts (she is incapable of having children) Henry is jealous. And he recognizes it. This only gives his spouse more leverage for manipulation. When the time comes to return the creature to the wild, Claire makes the call about the site’s location: It must be deep into the forest; away from roads and people. The area that suits her purpose in their region of Florida is the stuff of modern myth. Local legends abound, but a choice is made.
The freed animal scampers off, in its element. The couple, however, possesses the survival skills of metaphorical babes in the woods. They are disoriented, lacking sustainable food and water, and unable to locate their vehicle. Claire is seemingly unconcerned, but does off-handedly blame Henry for his inability to change the situation. Henry is angry: Angry at being lost; angry at the damn deer; and angry at his wife for causing the problem. These latent hostilities get vented when he is confronted with primitive atrocities.
Author Williams does an excellent job conveying the undercurrents and tensions in the marriage. The frustrations of the union are dealt with precision and a dash of humor. He also handles the predictable shift of character with a flourish. The violent landscape, of course, alters Henry. His metamorphosis from milquetoast accountant into blood-thirsty barbarian is finely depicted. No bad deed goes unpunished.
Blood Spring is a rapid read. The suspense is streamlined and flows easily; a taut tale. Erik Williams delivers a merciless meditation on a benevolent act that mutates to its monstrously malevolent closure.