I have a bone to pick with Harvey Click.
DISCLAIMER: I did not have to read this book. I do not owe any author a review of this book. I don’t know Harvey Click from Twitter. I do know him from Adam, because his name and author bio are right here at amazon.
Here’s another thing: I don’t even like horror stories or movies. And another thing: dozens of authors have sent me books in hopes of scoring a review, and most get buried deep in my Kindle. So how did this book rise to the top of my queue without any pleading or nudging from anyone?
“Demon Frenzy” popped up in the Free Today list from Kindle. The cover is grotesque:
I wouldn’t even have read the synopsis, but my peripheral vision and speed-reading skills are so phenomenal,*a sister in search of her lost brother* (Ding! Ding! Ding!) caught fire in the vast, dry prairie of my brain before morning coffee. I claimed the free book. And read the first chapter during breakfast, with no intention of reading the whole book.
Searching for her lost brother, Amy Jackson returns to her isolated hometown in the Appalachian Mountains. But Blackwood has changed. Now it’s run by a mysterious drug lord who has something more lethal than guns to protect him. He has demons—more vicious, venomous demons than even Hieronymus Bosch ever dreamed of—and after Amy witnesses an unspeakable atrocity he unleashes all the frenzied furies of hell against her. Soon she is stalked by snakewalkers, herky-jerkies, toadfaces, listeners, harpies, centicreepers, and the sinister crying man, who weeps while he torments his victims.
I read the book. Why? Well, darn it, Harvey Click is an extraordinarily talented writer. And he just had to go and mention the great Hieronymus Bosch. Harvey also has a way with words. He spins off line after memorable line. He has me nodding, thinking yes, yes, that’s exactly right. I grew up on a farm. I get this: “Maybe nobody who grows up in an old house out in the middle of nowhere is really a sceptic.”
–Sceptic? We spell it skeptic. No matter. Is he a Brit? Can’t tell from the bio:
Harvey Click earned an M.A. in English from Ohio State University, using his first novel as a master’s thesis. He has written five novels, four of them in the horror genre, and numerous short stories. He has taught English and creative writing for Ohio University, Ohio State University, the James Thurber House, and OSU’s Creative Arts Program.
Well, no wonder he’s such a superb writer. He teaches writing at the college level.
CONFESSION: I cover my eyes when I read horror scenes (so to speak). That is, I speed-read right past them, or skip them entirely. So there are in fact roughly a thousand words of this book that I did not read.
Amy, the heroine, is the exact opposite of me: “She was unable to look away. Seeing is a form of power, and some primitive part of her brain seemed to believe that if she looked away for even a moment she would lose this power” –well, I look away. Or I try to. You may need blinders when reading Harvey Click, not just because the prose is brilliant, but because some things cannot be unseen, even if only glimpsed.
Let me show you what I mean, compliments of Hieronymus Bosch:
Yeah. That’s right. Harvey Click is the verbal equivalent of Hieronymus Bosch. Let me point out that the image above is a mere excerpt (like a single sentence from a page full of sentences) from one of the medieval artist’s best known works, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Yeah. Really delightful, Heironymous.
WARNING: If you hate profanity, women lusting after other women, or gore, either skip those scenes, or don’t buy this book.
The downside of great peripheral vision is the number of lurid things that sneak under my radar. Here’s one of the less-gruesome atrocities now haunting the landscape of my mind: “a naked woman lying on her back chained to a flat rock. Some of the hellish ogres were jabbing her bleeding flesh with short spears, and Amy could hear the woman’s cries not with her ears but as painful throbbing noises deep in her brain.”
That creepy skinless man you see on the cover? He also slipped through my shield. I so did not want to see him peeling a long strip of skin off a living man’s leg, “sucking it into his mouth like a huge strip of bacon.” Thanks, Harvey.
Oh, it gets worse. I was suckered in by the cleverness of the prose: “‘My God, you don’t even want to see what’s in there,’ Amy said. But of course almost everyone did,’” and they filed up for a look at —. How do I unsee what they rushed over to see?
Some of the horror scenes, at first, are a little comical, especially for a former farm girl who’s seen her share of blood and gore and done some icky things with pitch forks. Overlooking the trope of stupidly brave heroine entering a vacant house alone, there’s an epic scene: “The closet door was already partially open. Standing back as far as the fork would reach, she used the tines to pull it open the rest of the way. The closet was jammed full of hanging clothes and piles of more clothes on the floor, and she realized she was letting out little shouts and exclamations as she poked her fork into them.”
Nope, not telling what she found.
While I hate the way fictional heroines are required to put themselves in harm’s way, this one has a motive I can buy: “If she drove home now, she doubted she would ever know what had happened to her brother. If she stayed, she wasn’t sure she would survive. It seemed a simple decision–being in the dark was better than being dead–but fierce determination had always been one of her traits, and whenever somebody tried to keep her from doing what she believed was right, she would become all the more determined to do it.”
Ahh. Love it.
The worst thing in this book is the secret code. It really torques me off when smart people go on about how “obvious” or “easy” these things are. I’m a speed-demon at unscrambling the daily word jumble (during and even *before* coffee!), but stuff like this, even after it’s explained, just annoys me:
“MMSEAOEEETCOEACPENTTRLN. Amy immediately recognized the code…”
Well, go, Amy.
(No, you did not hear a Grrrr, snarl! from me. My reviews do not come with audio. )
So, Harvey Click, I have a bone to pick with you. Next time you hook me with a book, spare me the secret code being “easy,” and consider invisible ink for the gory scenes, so that readers who want the lurid details can use their decoder to read this nightmarish stuff. Okay? Pardon me, I’m off now to check out more Harvey Click novels…