Written by: Matt Molgaard
I’m not about to lie, women scare the shit out of me. They’re walking, talking, completely unpredictable enigmas that in 31 years have managed to do little more than leave me completely perplexed. I’ve got 12 years of marriage under my belt, and I’m still not certain what exactly lurks in the deepest recesses of my wife’s brain. At times I can almost feel the knife sink into the soft flesh of my sleeping chest. At times I’d almost guarantee she truly loves me. Vile, humorous, manipulative, sultry, seductive, and mysterious, right down to the core. That’s my wife. How the hell do you accurately read a map so disjointed? If you know, please send me an email (don’t drop that in the comment section it’s information far too valuable to throw about freely).
I think it’s my quiet fear of women and their fatal capacity that led me to enjoy Eric Red’s debut novel, Don’t Stand So Close as much as I did. Eric’s obviously had plenty of experience trying to assemble the puzzle pieces of female intent, because he highlights the startling confusion women often project like a gnarled charm… dripped in blood, cursed by the old hag who lives at the edge of town. Yes, the one with inverted crucifixes, fox furs and bottles of mysterious potions lining her decrepit porch.
I don’t need to delve too deep into the details of this tale, if you’ve been following the site – or my writing in general – you already know I’m about as Anti-Spoiler as one man can be. I hate to have the mystery stolen before I’ve been given the chance to work out the conflicts myself, and I figure hey, if I want my feast fresh, why would I spoil it for you?
What I will do is give you just about what you’ll get by reading the book’s synopsis, with a few minor details added in the hopes of igniting some intrigue.
Don’t Stand So Close tells the tale of Matt Poe, a studly high schooler who relocates from a grand metropolis to a rural countryside where everybody knows your name (I’m sorry, the theme of Cheers just crept into my head for a moment). Matt’s a good kid with fair grades and a solid sensibility, but he’s about to become acquainted with the teacher of his dreams, and nightmares. Ms. Hayden, Matt’s English instructor is a seemingly caring woman who possesses the looks to leave a high school boys jaw planted on the linoleum. Unfortunately, appearances can be more than luring, they can be downright deceiving, and such is the case with this gorgeous 30-something predator.
Yes, I said predator. You see, Ms. Hayden’s got an eye on blossoming boys, but she’s willing to place far more than a peeper on hormonally driven youngsters. Much more. There’s a dark side of Linda Hayden that breathes in the earlier portions of this novel, and emerges, sinister head poised to strike, by the midway point. As the story unravels we learn that the term sinister doesn’t come remotely near accurately describing this seductress. She’s bat shit crazy with intent and motive (unveiled in an engrossing epilogue) that rival the most sadistic creature conceivable, and Matt just so happens to be the unfortunate object of her latest obsession.
Red takes a common fantasy, and transforms it into a hellish reality, and the gamut of emotions readers are subjected to really make for a fantastically scintillating journey. This is a coming of age tale gone horribly awry, and Eric knows every button to push in order to bring emphasis to the great moments in Matt’s life, as well as the most threatening. That said, it’s not necessarily the obstacles presented in the novel that leave such a massive impact on the reader so much as the relatability and endearing qualities of the story’s protagonists (for the record Grace sounds like the girl of every high school boy’s dreams). These are characters created with the intent of drawing personal attachment, and Eric hits a grand slam: I cared about these characters, deeply.
Don’t Stand So Close isn’t an overtly violent novel, or an intricate tale built upon a foundation of complexities. It’s a very direct, melancholy piece of work that echoes in the memory, forces sympathy and demands the next page be turned as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s deeply disturbing, and feels a whole lot like J. D. Salinger’s, Catcher in the Rye romanced Robert McCammon’s, Bethany’s Sin while watching Alan Parker’s feature, The Life of David Gale. Equal parts twisted and memorable, Don’t Stand So Close is a novel that commands attention and doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.
Read it, right after you pick it up at http://www.sstpublications.co.uk/dontstandsoclose/, I promise you will not be disappointed!