Written by: Tim Meyer
“Some songs demand sacrifice.” — Hangman’s Jam: A Symphony of Terror
Catchy line, right? If I had to sum up Hangman’s Jam in one single word, that’s exactly what I’d use—catchy. From the opening paragraph to the last verse, the story flows and unfolds rapidly. The book is over three-hundred pages, but rarely feels like it. Many times I found myself unable to put it down.
From open mike nights at a local dive to world-wide tours, Hangman’s Jam chronicles the making of a popular rock band, Allen Vent and the Strange Creations. Told through the eyes of the bassist, Bobby Marks, the reader witnesses the ups and downs of the rock n’ roll lifestyle. Large recording contracts. Groupies. Drug overdoses. Sex tapes. Responsibilities of parenthood. Murder. Betrayal. It’s all in there, everything you’ve ever dreamed of since your parents bought you your first Fender for your 12th Birthday.
Right now you’re probably wondering what makes this a horror novel and not a print version of This is Spinal Tap. I guess I forgot to mention that the novel welcomes Lovecraftian Mythos into its set, incorporating tales of the Great Old Ones and how music may play an important role in bringing down the fabrics of reality.
The first time the band plays the Hangman’s Jam, a tune taught to them by traveling blues-man Smoke Johnson, they start seeing some pretty bizarre things. A giant tentacle that sweeps across the audience. Floating spirits. Creatures from another plane of existence. Many terrible illusions that should only exist in nightmares and Lovecraft’s chilling tales. But what happens when those things become reality? Bobby Marks knows the band is playing with some very dangerous material. But like all drugs, success (and everything that comes with it) is hard to walk away from. Can Bobby quit before it’s too late? Before the sinister record label gets what it wants? Before the tune awakes the Ancient Ones, bringing death and destruction to the world as we know it?
Several things impressed me about the Jam. For one, the author did a great job in fleshing out the main character. The reader can relate to him quite easily. He has real-life problems. Makes bad decisions. Tries to do the right thing (most of the time). There’s times when you like him, there’s times when you wish he was real so you could put his melon through the wall. What the rest of the band lacks in character development, is made up in Bobby Marks. The second thing that I really enjoyed about the novel was the author’s passion for music, and the novel doesn’t cater to just one genre. There are little factoids about famous musicians, and whether they’re true or not, it lends to the tone of the novel, giving it a realistic vibe. I feel if the horror and the Cthulhu Mythos were subtracted from the story, it could have been an interesting autobiography from a popular rock star.
One who loves music and understands certain terminology might enjoy this more than your average horror junkie. However, if you do take a chance and listen to the Hangman’s Jam, you won’t be disappointed. While I wouldn’t quite place it near the top in the modern Lovecraftian cannon, I’ll say it’s a very good entry from a writer who knows how to tell one helluva story.
Tim Meyer lives near the Jersey Shore (but don’t hold that against him). He is the author of ‘In the House of Mirrors’ and several other horror novels. His new zombie novel ‘Less Than Human’ is now available on Amazon.