Strange poems and an intriguing tale for die-hard horror fans.

VISIONS, DARKNESS, AND LIGHT

Poetry and a novella mix biography, history, and horror.

Snodgrass’ “poetry novel” brings together more than 60 prose poems and a novella that centers on eerie, supernatural occurrences on the infamous Trail of Tears in 1830. The title poem, the first piece in the collection, alludes to Edgar Allan Poe and Rod Serling: “ ‘Nevermore!’ he cries alone. As you slip into life’s twilight zone.” It’s an apt combination for the poems that follow, which bear titles like “The Mummy,” “Poltergeist,” and “The Lycan.” The author crafts some disturbing and mournful imagery here, drawing heavily from pop-culture bogeymen and his own personal history. Between lines like “The freak show is coming to town; got Nosferatu and a very evil clown,” he pauses to dedicate slower, more somber pieces to his mother or grandmother: “I see your smile upon the wind when I close my eyes and go to sleep....I hope you are smiling—and Grandma, I’ll see you soon.” Reinforcing this alternating rhythm are the accompanying uncredited photographs, some of family members, others of desolate landscapes, and even shots of Snodgrass himself. The blend of popular genres and poetry is unusual and unexpected, but the author’s rather standard rhyming patterns tend to hold his pieces back from achieving something truly bizarre and surreal: “Are you an angel, or the devil’s slave? Or just a whisper beyond life’s grave?” This predilection for imbuing horror in unexpected places feels much more natural and effective in the historical novella Ouijawa: Trail of Tears, which follows a medicine man named Nvda Ama as he invokes supernatural forces to fight against the white Army and militia men cruelly herding his tribe out of their native lands in Georgia. Along with delivering some genuinely spooky passages, Snodgrass displays here some skill at perspective, playing with both the soldiers’ and the Native Americans’ inner turmoil during a horrific situation made even darker.

Strange poems and an intriguing tale for die-hard horror fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5320-7899-6

Page Count: 178

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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