Song To The Siren: Barbara Lien-Cooper & Park Cooper
Reviewed By Paul Flewitt
Once in a while, a book comes along and surprises you. You go into it expecting just a decent, entertaining read, but it hits you with something else. That’s what this book did, and it was pretty bloody great. The writers took a bit of a risk with this one, laying it out and presenting a story in the form of an interview transcript. It might not have worked, but in this context, it really adds something to the story. Sometimes, writers have to go out on a limb and just try something.
So, Song To The Siren is an interview with Sam Mac, legendary photographer and artist from the 70’s and 80’s. Two uni graduates sort of con her into giving an interview about her former lover, Reed Sinclair. Reed was the tragic lead guitarist and frontman of cult rock band, The Big Carnival, and fans go rabid over any stories about him and the band. Sam agrees to give the interview, but only if she gets to tell it her way. Of course, the students agree and make the trip to her home.
What follows is the interview, and the book from here on is Sam telling us the story of her and Reed. They grow up as neighbours, and he is fast friends with her brother, Pete. Sam develops quite the crush on Reed, not knowing that the feeling is quite mutual. He is two years her senior, and any romance is doomed to difficulty. Their friendship does develop into something more than that as they grow into teenagers, hiding their love from strict, conservative parents of 60’s middle America. The authors do well to invoke that time, and we can well imagine parents all over the country behaving in like manner.
Reed, of course, is a boy with issues. His older brother was killed in Vietnam, and Reed himself has an IQ which puts him close to the genius quotient. He’s a wayward, difficult kid because he is inquisitive, questioning and pseudo-intellectual who attempts suicide several times. He has something following him that demands his self-sacrifice, when the time is right … something dark which Sam must battle if she’s to win her man.
Reed is portrayed as the typical tragic rock star here, with echoes of characters from the real world. I read this and could easily picture Syd Barrett, Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson or Kurt Cobain acting in the same way as Reed is described. He is diagnosed by a quack psychiatrist and put on barbiturates which almost kill him, he descends into drink and drugs, all while trying to make his band work … and he so nearly succeeds.
But, he pushes Sam away for her own protection. His dark secret has made it clear it will take him or her. This dark entity craves his success … or Sam’s … but there is always a price to pay.
Of course, the story can only end in tragedy, or Reed would be telling his own story. When we get there, it is genuinely heartbreaking. Again, one can well imagine the tortured rock stars of the real world in the same position, and we’re given a front row seat in their misery. Just when you think they’ve sorted themselves out, reality kicks in and they’re either gone, or they simply disappear from our lives and go back to the real world. All we’re left with is the too few albums they made, and the question of what they might have created had they gone further. Such is the world of fame.
Is Song to the Siren a horror story? I’m not so sure it will appeal to those who like their scares more in your face. This is an implied horror, and it takes a while to get there. It’s old school, with a lot of the creepiness appearing in the shadows. There are some genuinely creepy moments, but this ain’t extreme horror, folks! It’s a little ambiguous. Could we be witnessing a mental breakdown and delusion, or are we seeing something truly supernatural? Honestly, this book could appeal to the romance crowd equally as much as it could to any lovers of quiet horror.
What it is, is a damn good story. It is engaging, entertaining, and it tickles a certain spot. It’s well written, it takes chances and its authentic. You really could suspend disbelief and think this was a true transcript from a real magazine or documentary.
I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Song To The Siren is out in October via Wicker Man Studios.
Song To The Siren
When two young documentary filmmakers start investigating the enigmatic death of the infamous Reed Sinclair, founder of the never-quite-made-it indie rock group The Big Carnival, by interviewing Reed’s former girlfriend, photographer Samantha (“Sam”) MacNamara, she tells them the story of a seeming love triangle between herself, Reed, and a frightening entity named Belle. Belle may have simply been how Reed’s troubled mental state interpreted multiple tragedies and coincidences in his life… or she may have been a supernatural being…
Paul Flewitt is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Sheffield, UK, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Paul began publishing in 2012, beginning with the flash fiction story, Smoke, for OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes anthology. He went on to pen further short stories, including Paradise Park, Climbing Out, Apartment 16c and Always Beneath.
In 2012, he also published his first novel, Poor Jeffrey, which was received to much critical acclaim.
Paul cites writers such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert and JRR Tolkien as inspirations on his own writing.
Paul continues to write, contributing to Matt Shaw’s The Many Deaths of Edgar Allan Poe anthology in 2020 with The Last Horror of Dear Eddie. He also began releasing free short stories and fanfiction on his Wattpad account for fun.
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