Hello loyal readers and other super awesome people in cyber land. Author Interview Corner is currently in limbo. I’ve got questions sent out to three authors. I’m expecting answers from one of them any moment; the other two sets of questions were just sent out yesterday, and I’ve got a fourth author patiently waiting on her questions (I am trying!). So for now, let’s keep this blog alive between interviews. How about a book review? I just finished reading Spooky Showcase by Alan Draven, and these are my thoughts:
Spooky Showcase is a collection of two novellas and three short stories. I’m a huge fan of novellas, so I enjoyed the set-up of this book: three short pieces sandwiched between two novellas. Another aspect of the book that enhanced my reading experience is that Alan Draven has created his own city of Bitternest, Louisiana, where most of his stories take place. Bitternest is described by character Jim Coffin as “a magnet for supernatural occurrences”. Aside from the final story (set in Whitechapel, London during the Jack The Ripper murders), all of the stories are set in Bitternest, allowing places and people to intermingle and become familiar to the reader. If you keep up with Alan Draven’s body of work, you will begin to recognize places like Hershell’s Motel, where the first four letters of the lighted sign have burned out, causing it to appear as “Hell’s Motel”. Or Terry Graves, who stars in Alan’s debut novel Bitternest and makes an appearance in the first novella in Spooky Showcase, entitled The Paradigm. While reading The Paradigm, you’ll hear mention of a serial killer wreaking havoc on the city, a character who comes into the spotlight three stories later in The Madman’s Atonement.
But that’s enough about how I think it’s cool to see recurring characters and settings. Not everyone cares about that. How about the writing? That’s what you really want to know, right? Is the writing any good? The answer is: yes. For the most part, it’s top-notch. If I was forced to put these stories under a microscope and pick them apart (you know, rip them to shreds like some reviewers love to do), I could say that Alan Draven does much better in a longer format. Some of his short stories, in my humble opinion, would benefit from expansion, as they feel a tad rushed towards the end, coming to a conclusion more abruptly than I would prefer. But you see, this is a moot point. The man himself, Alan Draven, says that he’s done with short stories, focusing only on novellas and novels from now on. I understand this decision. The two novellas in this collection, The Paradigm and Vengeance Is Mine, were the strongest, most engaging tales in the book. Draven’s writing shines when allowed the freedom of a higher word count, and I look forward to reading more of his work.
The Paradigm is a hard-boiled, gum shoe mystery with a supernatural twist. The characters are immediately likeable, the prose quick-witted and enthralling. The main character, Detective Jim Coffin, is the classic bad ass with a heart of gold. His intentions are pure and good, but if you piss him off, you might end up with a wooden chair leg through your good eye! I loved this story. Beyond The Doomed Cave is a short story that originally appeared in the Amazon best-selling anthology Sinister Landscapes. I owned a copy of Sinister Landscapes the year it came out; it was a fantastic anthology, chock-full of creepy fiction. That being said, Beyond The Doomed Cave is not one of my favorites by Mr. Draven. It was a fun and interesting read, but I didn’t like it as much as the other tales. The prose wasn’t as smooth and tight as the newer stuff. In the introduction, the author says this story is “probably my very best one”. On this point, Mr. Draven and I must agree to disagree. But that’s okay. He’s a kick ass author, and I have tons more good stuff to say! The Rattling Man is a creepy Halloween story with some pretty cool visuals. A Madman’s Atonement was my favorite of the three shorter pieces. And the final story Vengeance Is Mine was a wonderful way to close the book. A gripping and eerie take on Jack the Ripper. A novella that blends black magic and ghosts with an already terrifying topic. So clever.
I highly recommend reading Alan Draven’s work if you have not. It gets better with each passing year. His ideas are unique. His characters are intriguing. And Draven understands the main purpose of a story–to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, guessing, flipping pages, wondering “Oh dear, what if this happened to ME?” Spooky Showcase was as fun to read as it was creepy, and for that I was inspired to write a 750 word review, convincing you to go check it out. So please do! 🙂