Red X: David Demchuk
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Huge thank you to David Demchuk, Netgalley and the publisher for approving me for this.
A few years back I read a book that was haunting and unsettling.
‘The Bone Mother’ by David Demchuk was getting accolades and awards and so I dove in and never realized just what I was in for.
KR: You can read Steve’s ‘The Bone Mother’ Kendall Review HERE
I used that same nervous energy going into ‘Red X.’ Knowing that this was very much a personal journey, I had no idea just what was about to greet me and how harrowing an experience was waiting for me.
What I liked: The story flips between fiction and non-fiction, between the horror of men disappearing over many decades in Toronto’s gay village and Demchuk’s own personal experiences. I honestly don’t know which affected me more. Knowing that each of these men that Demchuk focused on and understanding that they were targets and would soon be gone was just awful, but when the chapter would draw to a close and the non-fiction biographical section would arrive…
This is an incredibly hard book to review because typically I can suspend disbelief and say to myself “it’s fiction, bad things can happen in fiction, it’s ok.” But this isn’t fiction. It’s fictionalized non-fiction with non-fiction segments and it just rips your soul apart knowing that these things were happening and that the agency’s in place that we get taught as kids that will help you, turned a blind eye or were involved, is just horrifying.
We get an interwoven narrative that connects specific characters together through a journal/diary. Odd events happen, things seen that don’t make sense or can’t be comprehended, but people don’t want to accept that these people, the ones they loved are actually gone. Some live transient lifestyles, so maybe they’ve packed up and moved on. Strange they didn’t say goodbye, but that’s how some people are.
Demchuk does what few authors can do – make you scared, sad, angered and repulsed all within a single sentence. I want to say the writing was beautiful, but with this subject matter and the real-life scars, I feel like that word would come off as offensive.
‘Sometimes, people vanish in other ways before they disappear completely.’
That was a line written early on that stuck with me through the entire book and I don’t know if I’ll ever forget it.
When this news story broke across Canada, of the man who’d been killing gay men in Toronto and how he’d been disposing of them for so long, I was so angry and hurt and shocked. But I’m also a straight white male on the other side of the country. Those who live within that community and knew full well something was going on and nobody would listen or take them seriously. I have no words. Demchuk’s written a book that I hope people read, as both a ‘horror’ story, but also as a snapshot of an unforgivable moment in Canadian history.
What I didn’t like: This book was pitch-perfect for me. Some people may find that the layout of the story is repetitive, what with each decade bringing us a new person to focus on, but that is the point of the story and the reality of the real-life events behind it. I hope if readers do feel that way, they can push past it and continue.
Why you should buy this: This will be one of the toughest reads you’ll ever come across. It actually reminded me of the emotional impact ‘A Monster Calls’ had on me when I read it. Knowing that as the reader we’re hopeless and helpless and are simply there for this dark and disturbing ride.
David Demchuk has crafted a book that will make you ache when reading it and for this specific reader, I’m glad he held nothing back.
KR: Banner Credit: www.allevents.in
David Demchuk (Red X) Online Book Launch: 1st September (7-8pm)
Join award-winning author David Demchuk for the virtual launch of his second novel, Red X (Strange Light) featuring a conversation hosted by Kai Cheng Thom. LINK
A hunted community. A haunted author. A horror that spans centuries.
Men are disappearing from Toronto’s gay village. They’re the marginalized, the vulnerable. One by one, stalked and vanished, they leave behind small circles of baffled, frightened friends. Against the shifting backdrop of homophobia throughout the decades, from the HIV/AIDS crisis and riots against raids to gentrification and police brutality, the survivors face inaction from the law and disinterest from society at large. But as the missing grow in number, those left behind begin to realize that whoever or whatever is taking these men has been doing so for longer than is humanly possible.
Woven into their stories is David Demchuk’s own personal history, a life lived in fear and in thrall to horror, a passion that boils over into obsession. As he tries to make sense of the relationship between queerness and horror, what it means for gay men to disappear, and how the isolation of the LGBTQ+ community has left them profoundly exposed to monsters that move easily among them, fact and fiction collide and reality begins to unravel.
A bold, terrifying new novel from the award-winning author of The Bone Mother.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
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