The Wicked, by James Newman, is a frightfully fun exercise in classic eighties horror. The pacing is excellent, all the time-honored elements are there - evil comes to a small town, preying on vulnerable sensibilities, trying to become "flesh" - but most importantly, it's so very well written. The prose is lean, the characterization rings true and even at 325 pages, the story moves like a dragster fueled by the fires of Hell.
David, Kate and Becca Little moved to Morganville, North Carolina in a desperate attempt to start over. After Kate's assault and rape, the Littles are hurting, badly. This may be the only chance they have at saving their family and returning to some sense of normalcy. Especially with Kate's pregnancy looming above them. Because they don't know. Whose child is this? David's?
Or the rapists?
Much worse dangers lurk in the shadowed corners of Morganville, however. Invoked by the fire that destroyed the Heller Home for Children several months before the Littles arrived, an ancient demon has come forth. Its hunger is eternal, and not only does it want to defile and debase and corrupt all human life...
It wants the children. To fuel its unholy fires, and bring it forth from hell. And to defeat it, David must face sacrificing more than just his life...he may have to sacrifice everything he holds dear in this world.
The debate will always rage, one imagines, between those who champion "introspective, literary horror" and those who favor the more visceral sub-genres like splatterpunk and monster fiction (zombies, vampires, etc). And that's the best thing about The Wicked. It's so well written. Boasts a tight narrative that moves well, and there's plenty of regular "life stuff" (regarding Kate's trauma over her rape) for this to be more than just horror.
But it IS horror, at its core. A classic tale of good versus evil, and it's done very well. Also, major credit goes to the publisher, Shock Totem, in the product itself. In a print on demand age when any "Joe" can become a "publisher" and churn out reams of substandard products, not only have they elected to start their novel line with a proven winner in James Newman, but they've knocked this one of out of the park in terms of design. Right town to a little "Totem's Grocery" discount label on the novel's back cover, and those beloved creases of a well-worn paperback.
Visit James Newman's blog. Buy the paperback or ebook today.
Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine and a blogger for The Midnight Diner. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's
currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at
Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives
in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is
the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at www.kevinlucia.com.