I haven’t reviewed any horror fiction in my posts here. Considering that I’m focusing on small press and indie published works, it’s simply been a matter of time before I got around to that genre. After all, commercial horror fiction has seen its cyclical booms and busts, but horror in the small press has always done well.
Blue November Storms falls into the category of You-Think-Know-Where-This-is-Headed-but-You-Really-Have-no-Clue-What’s-Going-on. The basic setup is one that’s familiar. Twenty years ago, five teenagers fresh out of high school save a young girl and are hailed as heroes. Only that’s not what really happened. They know they aren’t heroes. One of them leaves town and isn’t heard from again. Until now. He’s returning home.
All right, that’s a pretty basic setup. But then the story takes a turn in a unexpected direction. And, no, I’m not going to tell you what that direction is. You’ll have to read this one yourself to find out.
I’d not read Freeman’s work before. I must admit the direction the story went wasn’t one I find highly appealing. The reason for that is I’ve seen similar stories, either written by inferior writers or in low budget films.
But here’s the thing. Freeman isn’t an inferior writer. He took a scenario that didn’t do anything for me, handled it well, and made me care about the characters. The men decide to spend the night at a hunting cabin they built the summer they graduated high school, the same cabin they were working on when the incident occurred that made the town see them as heroes. Hanging over them is the specter of what happened all those years ago. Wounds are still unhealed.
And Freeman brings the five men to life, each a distinct individual, each coping in his own way with what occurred on that summer day when they were eighteen. So when the story veers off into unexpected territory, the reader has an emotional investment in the characters. This brings added depth to the events that follow. A depth that was missing from all earlier variations I’d seen on this theme.
I’ve got an ARC of a short collection of Freeman’s stories that came this past week. After reading Blue November Storms, I’m looking forward to dipping into it.
In addition to the title novella, the current edition has some nice extras. Ray Garton provides the introduction, explaining why he never goes out into the woods and why you shouldn’t either. Each chapter ends with an illustration by Glenn Chadbourne. Chadbourne’s artwork is fittingly creepy and adds to the atmosphere of the story. Finally, there’s an interview with Chadbourne conducted by Robert Brouhard.
I had the electronic version of this book. There’s an interactive table of contents. It works. It was at the back of the book, which I found odd, but the links took me where they said they would. There were no formatting issues that I found, and the text had been copyedited. A professional job.
Blue November Storms was an entertaining novella with more depth than many works of similar length available. If you like horror, especially horror that focuses on character, then this is one you’ll want to check out.
I’d like to thank Brian James Freeman for providing the review copy of Blue November Storms.