Written by: James Keen
“Pete often catches himself daydreaming about the licorice whip road that leads out of town…” -‘Dark Harvest’.
Bram Stoker Award winning author Norman Partridge, to this reviewer’s mind, has never quite nailed the widespread recognition the author so richly deserves. His creative talents are prodigious as evidenced by this creepy and surprisingly emotive novella that was originally published back in 2006. Dedicated to Ed Gorman, the celebrated crime and dark fantasy author, this is a book that has also a tenuous literary kinship with Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ in terms of its harrowing theme and a few narrative nods to a certain classic written by Mary Shelley.
Set in 1963, sixteen year old Pete McCormick lives in a generic podunk town whose male teen-aged citizens are about to engage in a yearly ritual involving the Halloween take-down of a creature known as the ‘October Boy’, a pumpkin-headed, vine-animated horror, described as “the merciless trick with a heart made of treats, the butchering nightmare with the hacksaw face…”. It’s a horrific ritual with guidelines and parameters that are slowly unfurled by author Partridge, like the petals of some strange and dark flower.
Partridge’s storytelling approach is to reveal the tale through the device of an omnipotent narrator, revealing the alarming turns in the story in a manner which gradually inculcates empathy with his principle players, all the while delineating his sinister events in an often icy and detached fashion. Horror fiction aficionados get their fill of crisply written gore and brutal violence, while Partridge plays with the notions of guilt and heartache in a bracingly told story that slowly and admirably subverts literary expectations, with the result that the reader is engaged, challenged and ultimately rewarded by Partridge’s supernaturally charged conceit.
Highly recommended. Order it right here.