Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shadows of The Past by Richard Schiver

There is an unquestionable pattern to my reading habits, whereby I usually alternate between the prolific and the up-and-coming – giving awareness to new voices whose novel descriptions act as catalyst to take a novel-length journey. This, the debut novel from Richard Schivar, will pique a reader’s curiosity just enough: here we are presented with Lovecraftian overtones evocative (perhaps) of something fashioned from the early pen - or pseudonyms
- of Dean Koontz.

Jaded police detective Sam Hardin is trying to pick up the pieces of his life after the untimely death of wife Anna. Now a single father to a teenage girl and a brain damaged four year old boy, he finds more succor in the bottle and immersing himself in police work than attending to family. When a series of bizarre murders at an abandoned warehouse lead to the uncovering of an ancient ceremonial dagger, Jack is suddenly thrust into the realm of an ancient God who not only inhabits human form, but has personally marked his son for possession, thus beginning a new reign of terror and termination of the human species. 

A novel that begins with promise, Shadows of the Past quickly dovetails into a confusing mish-mash of clichéd characters and uneven scenes that are never fully realized or resolved. Sam Hardin is a rogue cop with a giant chip on his shoulder. His depression, regret, and perpetual lamenting apropos of past decisions slowly begin to grate on the reader, shedding light on a protagonist who isn’t exactly likable and sometimes hard to believe. His nemesis in this madness, Jack Griffith, stumbles upon the ancient blade while working the storm-drains ... and it is here things become more perplexing, culminating in Stephen King’s Pennywise making an entirely unwelcome cameo. Richard goes on to use the description ‘fathomless black eyes’ roughly two dozen times over the course of two hundred pages. The final showdown, an epic stand-off between Sam Hardin and Jack Griffith in the snow, has the distinct flavor of formula – a prescription for pulp (horror) fiction throughout the eighties and early nineties.

Though puzzling at times, there were enough adequate and redeemable moments in the novel to show a writer in the early stages of ambition. Schivar has a flare for prose and – although hardwired to repeat the same word two (sometimes three) times in a sentence – occasional flashes of skill. Someone who (with time) will eventually find the rhythms of structure over the extended length of a novel.