There’s a fine line that separates a very good writer and a truly great writer. Very good writers get it right sometimes, great writers rarely, if ever, let us down, releasing nothing but riveting piece after riveting piece. Stephen King is a great writer. Joe Lansdale is a great writer. Jack Ketchum, Jonathan Maberry, Clive Barker, those are great writers. Today, Hunter Shea – in this mind – completes the transition from very good writer to great writer. This man will not let you down, and he’ll just about always give you a taste of his personal trademarks, like the presence of monsters and key heroic ensembles. It’s what he does. It’s part of what makes him great.
Hell Hole hit the desk a month or so ago. I felt compelled to betray all other authors in my work queue and jump right in, as Shea’s become something of a favorite for me. But I refrained, covering the offerings I had initially slated for review, putting Hell Hole on hold while I rummaged through a few thousand pages of various other stories. It hurt. But the wait was worth it. Hell Hole is fascinating, and infectious. It’s a story that brings amazing characters to life in a life they’d probably prefer not living. A western piece of sorts, the tale combines throwback country themes, familiar ghost town angles and a supernatural vibe that manages to bring monsters, men and demons together for one hellacious battle. Hell, there’s even a little historical revisioning at play here. It’s action packed and completely relentless. There are no unnecessary deviations, it’s just a straight forward story that will have you squeezing the paperback like a baby with his rattle.
These characters, Nat, Teta (yes, that’s what one loveably crazy Dominican is known as), Selma, Matthias and Angus, are all extremely well illustrated for the reader. They’ve all got unique personalities and they’re all extremely memorable. Nat’s an amazing, classic cowboy leader, Teta is the kind of sidekick you cross your fingers and hope to find in a novel, Selma’s a woman worth dying for, Matthias is perfectly annoying and Angus carries with him not only an absurd physical strength, but a commanding presence despite his reserved nature. He’s a gentle giant… with some tricks up his sleeve. The five make for one of the greatest ensembles I’ve had the fortune of discovering in any novel, ever.
I adore Shea’s willingness to avoid points of digression. It’s easy to feel compelled to take detours when writing. Filling in history can easily lead to wordy subplots, but Shea doesn’t bog the story down. He tells stories like a grandfather around the campfire, determined, diligent, directly to the point. And that approach, that execution is going to endear him to genre fans the world over. Shea is one of the absolute best in the business in 2014, and I’m going to go ahead and say it, Hell Hole is the best horror novel of the year.
Order it here, immediately. And do yourself a greater favor, don’t order the ebook, order the paperback. It’s such a mesmerizing tale, you’re going to want to feel that paper. And you’re going to want to return to this story more than a single time. It’s best to feel this book physically as well emotionally, and you simply cannot get that from a kindle.