Thursday, April 1, 2010
Burial to Follow
There have been enough Southern horror writers to constitute their own sub-genre. Ronald Kelly, Joe Lansdale, Robert R. McCammon and Michael MacDowell are only a few of the great Southern horror writers. One of the better currently active practitioners is Scott Nicholson, whose fine novella Burial to Follow is available for free download at his website.
Southern funerary customs are not formally written in a book of rules, but custom has solidified ritual to the point where they might as well be. Burial to Follow takes places at the visitation for Jacob Ridgehorn, and has as its main character Roby Snow, who presents himself as a distant cousin of the Ridgehorns, but who is there for a much more serious purpose.
Much of Southern observance of death centers around friends and neighbors delivering food to the family of the deceased, and usually results in much more food at the family’s home than can be consumed. This is probably an expression of the desire of good people to do something for the bereaved survivors, even though there is nothing that can really be done. In Burial to Follow, Nicholson crafts a story that imagines a deeper meaning to this, for Roby is the somewhat unwilling agent of a supernatural power, one of several who have roles to play in the passage of a soul from its earthly life.
As a Southerner, I’ve attended a number of these grim events, and Nicholson does a great job of capturing the feelings present, the grief of the survivors, the beginnings of a division of the spoils among the heirs, and the sympathy and morbid curiosity of friends and acquaintances. His dialogue is sharp and rings true to my ear, and the characters seem familiar to me.
If you have already read Mr. Nicholson’s work, you will certainly want to read this novella, and if you haven’t tried it, Burial to Follow makes a fine staring point.
Burial to Follow was originally published as part of the anthology Brimstone Turnpike from Cemetery Dance.