An inventive, intuitive debut.

THE BALLAD OF JINX JENKINS

From the Conduits series , Vol. 1

Sommers’ debut collection of linked short stories portrays a series of uncanny events that occurs in a fictional valley.

Green Valley “exists in the soul of every town and every village, every suburb and every city,” remarks Sommers in his opening note to the reader. This is the first installment in the Conduits series, which includes 12 stories set within a fictional landscape that stretches from mountain wilderness to a great metropolis. The opener, “A Sunny Day,” follows Gregg Ryan, a lonely SkyTram operator, who is beguiled by a passerby he spots on a crosswalk. In “Ya’hootie,” Boy Scout Pierre Abbé sets out to prove that Ya’hootie (a Bigfoot-like entity) does not exist but makes a life-changing discovery. Meanwhile, “The Ballpark Poet” is about Mac, a stadium beer vendor known for spouting rhymes during the game. Other stories star a crazed delivery driver, a movie projectionist threatened by the march of technology, and a woman whose child refuses to be born. Jinx Jenkins, a vagrant who carries bad luck with him, makes brief appearances throughout the collection. Sommers’ debut offers thoughtful insight into the processes of mythologization. With regard to Mac, the Ballpark Poet, he writes: “Nobody had a clue who he was or where he came from. When fans asked him, he always agreed with their story, in turn cultivating his myth beyond any actual truth. He figured the grander the legend became, the more beer he could sell.” The collection employs some imaginative twists in perspective—the foulmouthed delivery driver Puck introduced as a character in “Maddest Midsummer’s Night” reappears as the first-person narrator of “Roulette.” Puck’s crude, misogynistic language may deter some readers: “Can you believe this bitch? Fucking cunt. I swear, every time I get stiffed, it’s by some entitled white rich bitch.” Still, Sommers succeeds in setting up a fascinatingly detestable character. This is a shrewdly written collection that turns a mirror on contemporary society’s hunger to forge and destroy legends.

An inventive, intuitive debut.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9984983-5-5

Page Count: 206

Publisher: Transmundane Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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