Will Haunt You – Brian Kirk
Reviewed by Brian Bogart
“With each word read….”
I didn’t want to write this review.
That has nothing to do with the writing, which is equal parts hypnotic and accessible – Kirk is a great writer. I didn’t want to write it for other reasons. Darker and more personal ones.
In fact, I have been sitting here, staring at the keyboard for hours. My wife and kids have joined me, too. While I stare into the electric blue hue of my laptop screen – they are mouthing unintelligible whispers amongst each other while sitting in a circle and passing the book to one another. Countless times. Each time, their whispers become louder, their excitement more unnatural.
I am but a vessel. A conduit. The review of this story, the continuing work – is all that matters….
I’ve not read much Brian Kirk, but he is a very talented writer. His short story “Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave”, collected in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories (Edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward/ Crystal Lake Press) was my introduction to him. (What an introduction, too. I personally think that dark little bit of prose encapsulated the tone of the collection. One of the best in the whole book.)
Will Haunt You tells the story of Jesse Wheeler, a sober alcoholic and lead guitarist at a gig with his old rock band The Rising Dead. Playing in a honky-tonk bar was supposed to be a great reunion for them, but Jesse had just finished reading a certain book. Then the disappearances begin.
Could a simple book be the catalyst? Sounds like the stuff of urban legend – but Jesse slowly begins to question his sanity as singular threads weave into a more cohesive (and increasingly surreal) pattern around him. Is he a pawn in some sick group’s game? Or are those rumors about the book true?
A haunting radio program welcomes him to the “show”. A familiar late night caller on his car radio warns him that it’s not a game at all. Jesse does have a part to play, though. And it all begins during the midnight hour, with his car stalled on the side of the road. Soon, all of Jesse’s fears- and the guilt of a life-altering lie he’s been living with – will push him to limits no man should have to contend with. Let alone be forced to comprehend.
His bandmates. His friends. A mysterious woman. A one night stand that he doesn’t remember. Or does he? His wife and his kid. His life before reading the book. In this hellscape, all the pawns are in place. But who can you trust when you don’t even trust yourself?
I want to remain as vague as possible with this review. The conceit of the whole damn thing falls apart somewhat if I focus too much on giving a play-by-play. The charm is in reading it. For some readers, the introduction of certain elements may not mesh with what came before it. For others, like myself – I was completely absorbed in it as the two angles tried to play into one another.
It is bizarre, a bit like an acid trip. More than a few of the scenes are vivid and so detailed that I could see it working as scenes in a film. A strange and haunting bit of fiction, punch drunk with distorting the path you think you’re on, because some roads beg to be explored, even if it brings more questions than answers.
Then, I started thinking about how some people like that quality in Don Coscarelli’s cult films, while others don’t. In that respect it is very similar to the PHANTASM movies, in one sense: It’s the surreal, dream-like vignettes that keep you enthralled.
There is dark and personal tragedies coursing through the exposed veins of every room of Jesse’s nightmare, especially as the odds mount against him. It is indeed the journey, not the destination with this book. Readers are subjected to false memories, strange creatures, mad science and manifestations of guilt. Kirk’s prose in this novel is well-executed and there are moments that shine so much, you can imagine the author smiling to himself as he typed. I know I would have.
If only it WAS a dream for Jesse, he might be able to wake himself. Take it all back. Fix everything.
But, then again – someone needed to relate this tale to you.
He did what he had to do. And now – so shall you.
After reading this book, your story may be much different. As mine has been. But it always ends the same.
All of us are haunted, now.
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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