The Cursed Among Us: John Durgin
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading a short story of John’s in the ‘Beach Bodies: A Beach Vacation Horror Anthology.’ It was a really fun story and I was interested in seeing what John would be releasing in the future.
Now, I know. Durgin arrives with his debut novel ‘The Cursed Among Us, and I think this one will make a splash with the dark fiction readers out there.
Reading this one, I was super impressed to see just how much John’s prose had improved since the short story. I have no idea of the timeline around when what was written when, but the short story was good and the writing solid, but this was such a joy to read and see. I personally love seeing authors improve and I think this is a prime example of just that.
What I liked: The story takes place in a very small town, twenty years after a horrendous murder rocked the peaceful place. Now, a group of teens filming a movie for a class, end up unexpectedly releasing an entity and trying to figure out how to destroy it.
Durgin does a great job of creating a band of kids you want to root for, even when they fight and bicker, you want to see them patch things up. The coming-of-age aspect might be a turn off for some readers, but this was really well done and the survive-together parts were possibly my favorite moments throughout.
There is a lot for dark fiction fans to like in this one, and Durgin does a great job of creating this setting and using it to his advantage by making things go dark and darker when needed, but also infusing some hope and light moments to lessen the oncoming deluge.
The ending was a ton of fun. It felt like the climactic moment in movies when all of the good guys battle all of the bad guys and we see who truly makes it to the very end. Not to say there isn’t a lot of collateral damage throughout, but it really did work to finish the story off.
What I didn’t like: I did find some of the small-town characters a tad cliched, especially a few of the parents. It didn’t take away from it much, but some of the dialogue was a little too expected.
The other aspect I found odd was a teacher who seemed to be playing a large role to only have that role snuffed out quickly early on. It felt odd considering his back story and reason for being there. I won’t discuss more due to spoiler territory, but I found it odd.
Why you should buy this: As debut releases go, Durgin delivers an incredibly engaging read with a great cast of characters. He does them all justice and ultimately the entire story is lifted up even more because of that. This was a coming-of-age, small-town horror blast, one that I think a lot of people will really enjoy.
The Cursed Among Us
It has been twenty years since the serial killer known as The Black Heart Killer terrorized the town of Newport in 1979. Life mostly returned to normal after the killer was captured. All the townspeople have to do is stay out of the woods where the bodies were abandoned—their chests ripped open, and their hearts torn out…
Howie Burke and his friends decide rules are meant to be broken. That’s what fifteen-year-old kids do. On a beautiful fall day, they decide to go out in the woods to film a horror movie when they stumble across a mysterious grave. What they don’t know is that they are about to release an evil on the town unlike anything in their home-made movies. They will soon uncover the secrets of the Black Heart Killer, and what it truly means to be cursed.
Steve Stred is the Splatterpunk Nominated Author of ‘Sacrament’ and ‘Mastodon.’
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Steve has released over a dozen novels and novellas as well as a number of collections. He has appeared alongside some of horror’s biggest names within some truly excellent anthologies.
He is a proud co-founder of the LOHF Writer’s Grant and an Active Member of the HWA.