2012 has been a fruitful year for Australia’s Greg Chapman. After cementing himself as a kind of polymath writer and artist in the wake of his successful graphic novel collaboration Witch Hunts, Dark Prints Press has seen fit to publish Mr. Chapman’s Vaudeville as part of their new novella series – latching onto an already bourgeoning eBook market and giving new voice to a this timely and passionate author.
After the suicide of his father Dominic one year previous, young Anthony Moore returns to the mysterious woods on the outskirts of his home town Keaton where the baffling act took place – for closure, for revelation – for the off-chance that perhaps the forest will yield its secrets to the grieving family left behind. A doting father and a loyal husband to Anthony’s mother, Dominic’s decision on that fateful day left a wake of repercussions that not only scarred a family but left an entire town disconsolate. Keaton Woods, home to a history violence, does more than reveal its secrets to Anthony ... it exposes the malevolent spirits who dwell within the trees – a travelling troupe of performers caught between Hell itself and dying to give Anthony just one last performance.
Perhaps one the shortfalls of Greg’s first novella Torment was a subtle lack of metaphor within the composition – but here the author (much to my delight) piles it on thick. We can see the writer’s confidence emerging to create images that are vivid, asides that are incisive, and prose that is elegant. The greatest hook with Vaudeville is probably its cavalcade feel – that sense of carnival tied with innocence whose roots are to be found in tales like Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. The caravan of ghosts (whose names I will not reveal), are entertaining and wily – providing just enough sense of mischief and malevolence to keep them scary. What we have in the end is almost a coming-of-age tale that leads to a conjuring of Black verses the White – embodying the theme of an ancient evil who feeds on the souls of the living to survive.