The Wicked
James Newman

Necessary Evil Press
Autographed Limited Hardcover Edition, $45.00
Winter 2007
Review by Nickolas Cook

Since his first major release from Leisure, Midnight Rain (2004), James Newman has been one of the most exciting new voices in the horror and thriller genres. His newest novel, The Wicked (from the fine folks at Necessary Evil Press), only validates the buzz around his work.

When a children’s home is burned to the ground by a Satan worshipping teenage arsonist, the resulting deaths call forth an evil presence to the small town of Morganville, North Carolina. Enter David Little and his family, driven from the hustle and bustle of New York City by an act of violence in the hoped of a new way of life and a second chance to build a family. But it soon becomes clear to David, as the strange death count begins to rise, and the friendly folks of Morganville turn violent, that something evil has come to claim the town’s populace. Moloch is hungry for souls and no one is safe – not the eldest or the babe – from his insatiable appetite for destruction and bloody sacrifice.

It’s clear from the outset of The Wicked that Newman is out to redefine his own work, and to take no prisoners while doing so. In the process, Newman also manages to give a nod to the great small town horror novels of the 80s without pandering to the lowest common denominator mentality that infected so many of the less-than-great offerings of the 1980-1992 industry horror boom. This is class-A storytelling at its best. Of course, there will be the inevitable comparisons between he and other great Southern authors in the genre: Lansdale and McCammon come immediately to mind. And those comparisons are accurate, for they all share the gift of storytelling without throwing pretensions at their readers. Story is king, style only the wonderful side effect of Newman’s attention to the narrative and the characters with which he’s peopled it.

As illustrated in many of his previous novels, Newman knows how to build the suspense, piling on the blood and sex, while still remaining true to the story. The pulse pounding scenes have a cold logic about them, as the Littles find themselves fodder for the evil of Moloch, and the explosive ending is enough to make your skin crawl.

I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say that The Wicked may be the one that brings Newman back to the mass-market readers. The horror genre badly needs more writers like James Newman to fill the shelves, an author that recognizes and respects where he has come from and knows exactly where he wants to go.

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