"The Attraction" and "The Necromancer" by Douglas Clegg. Review by Nickolas Cook
The novelette format is a tricky business for writers. Too short, and a reader can feel as if it's rushed and incomplete. Too long, and it becomes perplexing as to why it wasn't written as a novel instead. Clegg, however, handles the format admirably with his newest release from Leisure, "The Attraction." He gives enough back story and characterization to keep the pace moving along. He also makes good use of Native American folklore and even cleverly references the infamous Southwestern tourist trap, "The Thing" (anyone who's ever traveled I-10 through the desert knows of which attraction I speak).
Clegg takes the idea of a cheapjack tourist hustle for a decrepit gas station in middle-of-nowhere Arizona and turns it into a terrifying quick punch of horror for his readers. A group of college drifters make a run across the country to find themselves the unwitting targets of an ancient creature in need of flesh and blood. I found myself cringing in parts as his descriptive passages covered me in dust and sweat, blood and gore. A thoroughly enjoyable B-movie ride. And if you live in the desert, as I do, the end sentence is chilling.
But the story isn't without flaws. Clegg tends to use some distractingly flippant prose here and there, a little too avuncular in parts. He glosses over some of the death scenes in less than a sentence or two, which deflates his hard won characterizations. There should be a stolid rule in horror literature—if you're going to take all that time making us care for the characters we should see their deaths. Morbid, yes; but expected by most horror readers.
No less wonderful of a read is the second novella part of this Leisure issue, "The Necromancer," part of the ongoing Harrow House saga. I was astounded that Clegg hadn't tried this style of writing before now. It was like reading a cross between the Marquis DeSade and Charles Dickens, as a poor Irish lad is drawn into a world of evil and darkness in the mean streets of old London. His prose is scintillatingly brilliant in parts and I was sucked right into this squalid tale of black magic. If for no other reason, the book is worth this little gem of horror literature. I plead with Clegg to consider writing a complete novel using this first person narrative in the way Dickens once did. "The Necromancer" adds yet another piece in the puzzle of the Harrow House and keeps you wanting more.
Nickolas Cook lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and three pugs. He is the Fiction Moderator for the Shocklines Writing Group, the Chat Host for The Lost and The Damned Message Board and the Writers' Forum Moderator at ARWZ. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in several magazines. He collects jazz and blues, and is still trying to learn how to play the trumpet like his hero, Miles Davis. Visit Nickolas at his web site at The Horror and Jazz-Blues Review, his Myspace page, his blog, where you can read his free ongoing serial novella A Kind of Blue.