A rollicking, Western-flavored frightfest.

COURSES OF THE CURSED

A CURTIS JEFFERSON NOVEL

Werewolves and worse haunt the Arizona desert in this supernatural thriller.

Bailey’s yarn, the second installment of his Curtis Jefferson trilogy, braids together loosely connected episodes involving macabre goings-on in rural southern Arizona, circa 1964. Framing the novel is the story of Curtis Jefferson, a Black teenager unjustly imprisoned for arson in the Fort Grant reform school, the former site of a U.S. Army outpost where 144 Apache women and children were massacred by vigilantes in 1871. Among the challenges Curtis faces are a violent, racist fellow inmate, periodic stampedes of ghost riders, and a werewolf that lunges at him when he briefly manages to escape. Meanwhile, local cafe owner Isabel Cienfuegos confronts similar problems. Her nephew Rayis a metal sculptor who’s crafting a coyote-themed memorial, commissioned by a mysterious Apache medicine man named Ezra; meanwhile, she has repeated run-ins with the werewolf who’s skulking about her restaurant—including an attempted rape. A third subplot concerns Pima policeman Eduardo Cruz and paralegal Betty Wood, who are trying to prove the innocence of Kenny Armenta, a catatonic man in a psychiatric ward who’s accused of tearing out his wife’s throat. Around the little-known real-life tragedy of the Camp Grant massacre, Bailey spins a colorful, intricate fictional world, steeped in well-observed Southwestern atmosphere and teeming with paranormal oddballs—including a headless lawyer who gallantly drives to the rescue of distressed people in his black Lincoln Continental and a squad of very, very old cavalrymen who still draw paychecks. This is not the spookiest of tales; the supernatural elements are matter-of-fact, and the horror flows more from grisly shock effects than from suspense. However, the characters are sharply drawn and vibrant, especially Ezra, whose infectious zest for deviltry (“Ah, the sound of human wailing and the gnashing of teeth—sweet music to my ears”) dominates the proceedings—although he meets his match in captivating spitfire Isabel. Bailey’s vigorous, if sometimes purplish, prose will keep readers turning pages: “Zombie equestrians—a murderous posse on a mission from hell—were abroad again in the night!”

A rollicking, Western-flavored frightfest.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73284-365-3

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Ingramelliott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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 unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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