Necro Publications continues its Fresh Flesh experiment with a debut novel from John Shupeck Jr. Here the author has woven a tale of four very different stories containing interlocking characters and situations. Like converging train lines that ultimately intercept at the same terminal, each story has the same analogous outcome.
We begin in nowhere, Pennsylvania - and Dan Suppers is looking for civilisation after breaking down in his car. Soon he stumbles upon the still-smoking and charred aftermath of a large fire, the remnants of an entire small town’s populace. With no survivors to tell the tale, Dan is left to piece together the mystery of Kecksgille’s final moments ... and how an entire municipality ended in a baptism of blood.
Slow out of the gate, Incipientium chronicles a young Mike Rearick and his merry band of friends as they make their way to the local Kecksgille Baptist Church and a night of revelry. But the resultant climax here is more like a reverse-coin Children of the Corn that will see Kecksgille’s adults – guided by the hand of a local priest - rise up against the children in a well-choreographed genocide.
As implied by the title, mental illness takes centre stage in this first person narration. Composed in diary form, we are slowly introduced into the ailing world of young Carl Truitt and the doctors tasked with helping him. Our narrator’s voice is sly, crass, and contains just enough adolescent humour to please any underdog.
Chronicles the story of Zachary Bennett who takes the path less travelled in an effort to escape an impoverished existence and parents battling addiction. A mere child when he begins his journey, Zachary Bennett comes to age almost overnight after being pitted against the ‘medicine man’ of his nightmares. A final showdown in heart of Kecksgille rounds off a story rooted in subtext.
Another tale of the underdog, Spider Arms centres on Kevin Ritchie, Kecksgille’s neighbourhood teenage punching bag for Jocks everywhere. Cursed with a subtle malady that redefines lanky, Kevin decides – on one fateful day – to fight back. But not in the manner his adversaries expect. Ultimately a routine narrative of revenge.
There are a few other intervals here in Red Town Lost – some clever, others mystifying – while the syntax (at times) can be slightly awkward and comes pre-packaged with run-off sentences and juvenile metaphysics. However, as a working whole there is a quality of strangeness that grows as the story progresses. If some of the plot devices are a little too deus ex machina for some readers, I suspect more light can be shed on them in John’s illuminating and candid afterward.
Red Town Lost is available now from Necro Publications.