The Skinny...

READING: American Gods by Gaiman

WRITING: Still figuring that out.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: BURY ME DEEP by Joshua Reynolds

I like horror stories. Like ‘em big time. Maybe that says something about me, I don’t care. Bring the monsters and I will be entertained. Going into the book BURY ME DEEP I hadn’t read much by Josh Reynolds. I likely stumbled across one of his blogs and saw that he had what I’ll call a healthy interest in the horror genre.

So do a lot of people. Still, he was writing about a place that I had never heard of called Jackapo County. It’s in South Carolina. The South. I’ve lived in the south and I didn’t care for it. Still, lotta fodder for material down there. If I recall I read a listing of stories (and brief summaries) that were in this collection of Southern Folk Songs and just like that, I was hooked.

I just finished BURY ME DEEP today and while some tales were better than others, it was well worth the coin. Turns out Jackapo County is one jacked up place to live. May you never enter it and if you do, seek out Baxter Sarlowe, he might be yer only shot at getting out alive.

Baxter Sarlowe is a reoccurring character in Jackapo County. He is part southern gentleman and part occultist with one of the coolest collections of arcane memorabilia I’ve ever encountered. Guy collects the magical, be it of the light or the dark. Weird crap happens and he is often on the scene to sniff things out and settle the score for those that are only human and without ambition to be anything more.

You might think that would be the majority far as numbers go. In most places it likely is. Not in Jackapo County. If you’re a decent sort in Jackapo County and a human, yer days are numbered. Sure seems like half the human population are predators before you even get into the listing of the things that are under the ground, in the swamps, or on leathery wings. Even a lot of the white trash that appears in Mr. Reynolds’s tales of Jackapo County don’t deserve to go out like they do.

Most do though.

Not a lot of innocence in the County. Place is poisoned from the mantle on up. Like maybe it borders too close to hell or something. I hate swamps anyway and this book just reinforces my desire to steer clear for very obvious reasons. Reasons that are very clear in SONG FROM A WHORE-BONE FLUTE, BURY ME DEEP and NIGHT FALLS OVER TENEBRE.

I will say that NIGHT FALLS OVER TENEBRE is one of my favorites offered here. From concept to execution it just hits the coffin nail on the head. Maybe it’s my loathing of swamps amping things up but Josh has a fascinating concept in this tale that is exquisitely described. I was quickly reminded of Lovecraft before my blood started pumping. It’s tales like that, described so vividly, that made me eager to pick up the book again and again.

I’m a strong believer in naming appropriately. Reading through many of Mr. Reynolds's choices was often a pleasure. It’s a skill not all writer’s posses. From John Bass the Ghost Breaker to that damned stretch of countryside Jack Hollow I found myself grinning at his choices and wishing I had thought of some of them.

There are fifteen stories in this collection and it wasn’t enough. I finished the final tale, DOG-FIGHT NIGHT, and felt somewhat melancholic. Not because the story was lacking in any way. I think it’s the strongest tale of the fifteen (certainly the meatiest). I was disappointed that the book was finished.

I’ll have to find another.

It’s dim, this Jackapo County, at any time. Worse at night. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your flashlight. Best make it a Maglite. You’ll run out of bullets fast and flesh and bone just won’t cut it.

C. William Russette 2009

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