Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- The State of Shock Totem Publications, or We Are Not ChiZine Publications
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
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Tag Archives: Crystal Lake Publishing
Late last year, Kevin Lucia delivered a wonderful collection called Things Slip Through, a great gathering of tales presented in a wholly unique way. The voice of Lucia’s writing is old school—think early King or later Bradbury. So obviously, I was quite anxious to read this novella, Devourer of Souls, which is actually a pair of longer stories which are stitched together by a similar framing device as those in Things Slip Through.
You know the old saying: “If it ain’t broke…”
Devourer of Souls starts with two men meeting in a diner. They are members of a sort of coalition in the Clifton Heights area, a group of men who meet once in a while to keep one another apprised of the weird shit that seems to be bubbling under the Rockwellian surface of their town.
The first half is a great tale called “Sophan.” A group of boys and an outcast dying to be drawn into a strange and ancient game of chance called Sophan, a tile game offered to one of the boys at a rummage sale. During the last breaths of summer, one boy is consumed by hatred and bigotry while his friend is called to fix things. A father is haunted by the ghosts of war and another by his good fortune to have returned and moved on. Lucia does a great job of bringing these characters to life. The emotions are realistically rendered and easily relatable, he keeps them simple but something that we can all recognize, honestly written and stronger for it.
“The Man in Yellow” is the second feature, and it is just a good as the opening act. Set in another flyspeck town that neighbors Clifton Heights, this story involves a young man on the cusp of adulthood, angry at the world and the God he isn’t sure is out there. He and his friend discover that faith can be a monster when a new minister arrives in town. A charismatic stranger in a bright yellow suit and an ancient agenda. This one has a decidedly darker tone than “Sophan,” and given the brooding cloud of faith and/or lack thereof that hangs over it, it isn’t surprising. .
Lucia’s strong characters and smartly simple and realistic dialogue are one of the many things that propel his writing along the rails. His pacing is good and he knows how to tell a good story without a lot of fat. Too many times writer’s bog down their stories with unnecessary jewelry and gloss when a simple story—simply told—is what is needed. Lucia gives us a refreshing old-school style—not that he can’t throw down the words, but he understands that the story needs to be the star.
Devourer of Souls is available through Ragnarok Publications.
I was familiar with Kevin Lucia before reading his work. We’ve crossed paths many times on the convention circuit. Tall, nice, friendly and warm and gracious…
I’d better stop before the cartoon hearts start floating above my head.
His debut collection, Things Slip Through, is a unique creature, from the Bradburyesque (think Dandelion Wine) structure and setup to the very creepy images and scenes that mark it like lesions or scars.
The stage for this gathering of tales is as nifty as the tales themselves: Clifton Heights, New York. Just like any other small northeastern town, save for the ghosts and demons and creepy crawlies that seem to lurk there. Or do they?
After a particularly gruesome and brutal case, a local lawman meets with other pillars of the community to discuss the bizarre history of the town and what really lives there. We meet a writer who predicts dark things, and it is through his journals that we get our stories.
We meet the town drunk, riddled with guilt over his brothers death and the odd loop that guilt creates. We find a child taken by an imaginary friend and a man who meets a gruesome end along a road that goes on and on and on.
A lonely girl and her demonoid pal wreak havoc while a man discovers he has more power over his model train set than one should be comfortable with. There are eerie phantoms and dark memories staining the walls. People are as haunted as the locales in these fables. They crisscross one another like autopsy stitches.
Lucia knows what he’s doing. He has studied the masters and taken adequate notes and has written a classically structured, darkly fantastical book. A love letter to both 50s dark fantasy and 80s pulp horror, written in red and bound in heart. Things Slip Through is a solid and entertaining journey through a very strange town.
Available from the fine folks at Crystal Lake Publishing.