This third installment of a series examines apocalyptic events in the heart of the American South.
Picking up where his previous book left off, Drago (Queensboro, 2015, etc.) returns to the small and seemingly ordinary North Carolina town of Crow Creek, the center of that earlier adventure, and to several characters from that horror tale, including Sheriff Brad Gleason, his ex-wife Shana, and “a certain band of inadequate heroes” who’d saved the day (and quite possibly the world). As this new novel opens, twin catastrophes are looming: first, Amanda Simmons, the nefarious owner of the ambitiously evil biotech company Carolina Entech, plots to rebuild the neighboring town of Winter, which was hit by two atomic bombs back in 1960. Second, just as the plot begins to unfold, Drago’s extended cast of characters—Pastor Thomas Rhodes, a man named Black Jesus, Pastor Aken, Britisher Peter Bally, and a handful of others—gets caught up in a strange, sudden phenomenon: an energy pulse that knocks out all technology in one pregnant instant (“like a stage actor in the West End holding a beat for dramatic effect,” as Peter characterizes it). Gleason and Rhodes, having been tasked by the U.S. government with investigating the goings-on in Winter, must deal with ancient cults, corporate evil, and the walking dead. It’s the kind of overheated stew Drago seems to enjoy preparing, and he once again does a winning, skillful job, combining increasingly over-the-top, Stephen King-style horror elements with a quietly confident and quite convincing portrait of everyday life in the North Carolina Piedmont region. His heroes are believable strivers with feet of clay, and his ear for the rhythms of their dialogue helps to bring them alive. And as in the previous Crow Creek work, the book’s villains are energetically drawn and its sense of evil itself is both starkly Baptist and refreshingly complicated (“That’s what the Devil does,” readers are told at one point. “Don’t so much as go for you as make you go for him”).
Another surefire horror outing with realistic heroes from a new specialist in the genre.