Friday, October 22, 2010

The Reverend's Powder

A new chapbook from Sideshow Press, Erik Williams’ novella “The Reverend’s Powder” is a strong story of faith and the lack of it, and of revenge and the consequences that come with it.

Matthew isn’t a man of strong faith, but his sister Laura has embraced it, possibly due to her incurable cancer. She is dying, and with medical hope exhausted, has turned to spiritual cures. The Reverend Simms is a faith healer, who has built a successful ministry by healing the sick of all manner of ailments, saying that at least some of them are the result of demons that can be cast out of the body. Matthew goes with Laura to the Reverend’s revival despite his doubts. She receives a respite from her pain, but this turns out to be temporary and with tragic after-effects. Matthew is consumed with anger at the Reverend, and decides to take revenge.

Most writers today would have written this as a you-wronged-me-and-I-get-even revenge story, but Williams takes a much more nuanced approach, and examines whether the aggrieved Matthew is truly justified in treating the Reverend as he treated others, and what he will have to live with as he does so. I found the writing smooth and assured, and the story was too compelling to pause. I look forward to seeing more from Mr. Williams in the future, perhaps in a longer form.

“The Reverend’s Powder” is available from Sideshow Press as part of their Chapbook Series.

I can’t say I’m crazy about the cover art, but such things are subjective, and the story is more important to me than the cover.

A personal note: many years ago I was living in Birmingham, Alabama when a prominent national evangelist and faith healer came to town. During his show, he accidentally broke a woman’s neck. Because he was a “man of God”, no criminal charges were filed, and no lawyer was willing to bring a civil case.

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