Sunday, October 3, 2010
Dark Harvest PTSD
Here's a reprint of my review (originally on-line November 13, 2008, just in time to miss Halloween 2008) of one of the best, maybe the very best, Halloween books. Dark Harvest has just been published in a mass-market paperback, so if you haven't read it, you have 28 days.
Norman Partridge has been touted as one of the rising stars of the horror field, and now that I’ve read Dark Harvest, I have to disagree. He is not rising; he has already risen. Dark Harvest is a wonderful, mature work of horror fiction that places Partridge among the elite of the profession.
This is a lean, spare story, clocking in at just over 160 pages, and readers should be warned: It won’t take that long to read, but you can’t stop once you start. It is set in a small town in 1963, where every year, a pumpkin-headed October Boy rises in a field just outside of town. A resident is there to carve a face in his head, he is stuffed full of candy, and given a butcher knife. He then takes off, with the goal of reaching the church in the center of town. Standing in his way is every boy in town between sixteen and eighteen, armed with clubs and knives, and determined to kill him before he reaches his goal. Each of the boys has been starved for five days to make them “hungry” for the kill. The boy who kills the October Boy gets to leave town (the only way out) and his family receives rewards.
There are many secrets about this ritual, and they are revealed one by one. This is one of the great works of dark fantasy, and the perfect book for Halloween. There are a few anachronisms in the 1963 setting, but that is a very minor quibble. The novel is available as an inexpensive Tor trade paperback.
You should also check out Norman Patridge’s website. Essays there reveal he is one of the few people to share my love of the Universal horror movies of the 30s and 40s, and there is free on-line fiction, too.