Friday, September 28, 2012

The October Boy

I don't do a whole lot of book reviews...or any reviews for that matter, and that's a bit odd. I mean, I don't so much read as I DEVOUR books, and I'm pretty durned opinionated, so what gives? I've reviewed stuff in the past, usually for the now-defunct Borders website, but not so much anymore. Well, perhaps I should change that, eh? Well, seeing as the Halloween season is upon us, it seems a good time to review a tale that ties directly to my favorite holiday. I bought Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest based soley on a review from a friend. It seemed like my cuppa hemlock, so I snagged it dirt cheap off of Amazon. Now, being completely honest here, it seemed like a safe bet...you can't judge a book by the cover, but even if I didn't dig the story itself, I'd at least have that cool Jon Foster artwork to gaze at on said cover! Fortunately, I needn't have worried. Dark Harvest is a truly fantastic yarn for All Hallow's Eve.
Jon Foster's full artwork for the paperback! The problem with doing a review like this is that I don't want to delve too deep into spoiler territory, as half the enjoyment of the book is seeing the whole plot unfold, and the twists it takes along the way. The basic plot is that a small, sleepy mid-western town has a legend called The October Boy, and his presence ties into some dark secrets that the town itself harbors. Partridge's prose is absolutely stunning, painting broad pictures that really come alive, all the while using an incredibly converstational style that makes you feel like you're along for the ride with all of these characters. The events of a cold, sinister Halloween in 1963 are played out for the reader as if they were a part of the story...and in a way, they are!
This is a novel where mystery is a huge component throughout, and this may be where some readers get a bit disgruntled. Not all of the enigmas presented here are explained, and many questions will linger with the reader after the final sentence is read. Now, personally, I loved this aspect of the story.Partridge gives just enough clues for the reader to piece together in their imagination what they think this is all about, but doesn't spoon-feed them the answer. Some prominent secrets are revealed, but others are left deliberately obscured in the darkness that blankets this small community. The October Boy himself is one HELL of a great creation, and I cannot help but love the very idea of this creature. He is a true classic, tragic monster in every sense. In fact, I discovered that there is quite a bit of fan art of this great creation:
by Simon Breeze
by Mr. Dinks I really don't want to say much more about this book, because you really should go into it without a whole lot of preconceptions. It's just a fantastic, spooky story. Not so much outright horror, as a great, atmospheric tale to get you in the mood for the Witching Season.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Horrors of Childhood: The Photography of Joshua Hoffine

Fear is one of the most primal of all emotions. A case can certainly be made that it is the first emotion we feel upon leaving the comfort of the womb. I know as a child, I felt fear on a regular basis. I think this is true of most children, and it's largely due to the fact that kids have such vivid imaginations. I've often argued that a large part of the appeal of Halloween is it is a way of coping with, and ultimately overcoming, the crippling power of fear. By taking on a frightening guise, we become what we fear...and thus take away its ability to scare us.
My own childhood was filled with all sorts of terrors. The monsters in my favorite movies had nothing on those things that I just KNEW were lurking outside my window. As I lay awake at night, hiding under the covers (because, somehow, if your head wasn't exposed the monsters couldn't get you), my mind raced with all sorts of horrifying scenarios. A coat in the corner became a wicked witch, just waiting for me to get up so she could catch and carry me away. Horrid demons lurked in the hallway, ready to drag me to the netherworld for not telling my parents about that bad grade I got in math last week. A trip to the bathroom could mean that I would meet my doom at the hands of some hideous ghoul, hungry beast or some other fiend that adults claimed wasn't real. Oh, but I KNEW better!
As childhood faded into puberty, new horrors awaited. The monsters became replaced by the madmen that I was hearing about on the news. While the all-too real face of evil was now fueling my imagination, the scenarios were only slightly more plausible than my more childish musings. Many of these nightmares were akin to the urban legends we all heard as kids, from the "Hook Man" to the "Man in the Back Seat", and I must think that a great many of those probably sprung from the minds of adolescents.
Photographer Joshua Hoffine has made fear his primary subject, and many of his portraits are focused on the horrors we all imagined as children. Using his daughters as his models, he creates truly disturbing portraits of childhood fear. I think most people will find that these pics strike a rather primal chord. I know that I personally found more than one of these rather disturbing, simply because I had imagined such similar scenarios when I was little.
For those of you who may want to see more of Mr. Hoffine's freaky images, you can check his website: http://www.joshuahoffine.com/ . He has other topics that he explores aside from childhood terror, but they are all equally horrific in nature.
If you're interested in all the minutia that goes into the creation of these pics, you can hop on over to his blog, where he shows you all the behind-the-screams details you're craving: http://joshuahoffine.wordpress.com/
Sweet dreams!