Leisure, paperback, 305 pgs, 2008, $7.99
Reviewed by Steve Vernon
“It was on the first day of spring that Big Steve and I saw Shelly Carpenter giving head to the hairy man.”
I am sitting here in my office, with my copy of John George Hohman’s Long Lost Friend and my Farmer’s Almanac, in the heart of a circle woven from red and black yarn and a copy of the Bible – along with Brian Keene’s ode to Powwow magic, Dark Hollow. That first sentence directly above this paragraph is the first sentence in Keene’s novel and as hooks go, it’s a doozy.
I’ve always been a sucker for those old style horror novels with a rubber-suited monster – you know the ones – the kind that start out by warning you that there’s something awfully strange going on in those woods up yonder. Now mind you, to catch me with this sort of tired old conceit you’ve got to be able to spin that yarn. Like the headsman once said – execution is everything
Well, let me tell you friends and neighbours I am here to testify that Brian Keene has put the pow and the wow in powwow.
The book starts out with strange goings on in LeHorn’s Hollow, back in rural Pennsylvania home of the hex magic and the powwow and maybe something even darker still. When up-and-coming mystery novelist Adam Senft and his best buddy Big Steve stumble onto Shelly Carpenter’s fascinating first-page fellatio they find themselves firmly fouled feet-first in the jaws of impending nightmare.
Fans of Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer tales are going to feel right to home in amongst the goings on around LeHorn’s Hollow. That isn’t to say that Keene has written a pastiche of Hillbilly horror, but rather that Keene has tipped his hat in Mr. Wellman’s general direction and then sent said hat soaring squarely into the heart of the nearest hex sign. In fact, he even mentions “Old Man Wellman” in one of the creepiest chapters in the novel – Chapter Thirteen.
Keene’s characters have never been so strong, nor his storytelling so goddamn smooth. I wasn’t all that impressed with Keene’s last Leisure release, Dead Sea, but Dark Hollow hit me smack dab where it counted. As the novel unfolds and the protagonist and his good buddies realize just what they are up against you will find yourself gripped in suspense.
So what are they up against? Well, normally I don’t like to talk a lot about the actual plot of a novel I’m reviewing – however I will make an exception to this rule because Dark Hollow was originally published by small press icons Bloodletting Press as The Rutting Season back in 2006 – so I am assuming the majority of readers are fairly familiar with this work. What the protagonist and his buddies are dealing with is an honest-to-god satyr, only this critter isn’t anything like Pan – the god of Shepherds, Flocks and Fornication. Now when I first heard that the monster in the heart of this novel was nothing more than a goat-man I had my doubts. I kept thinking about Toot, that ridiculous little satyr in The Mighty Hercules. I was afraid, and not in a good way.
However, rest assured that Keene’s depiction of this old Greek lecher has a lot more to do with a demi-deity that went on to become the initial prototype of old Satan himself. This book will scare you, in a good way.
Every now and then I come across a book that is just so damn good that I have to write a review.
This here is one of them.
I recommend Dark Hollow wholeheartedly.