Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
The small press on the high street anyone?
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Monday, December 20, 2010A Gathering of Crows by Brian Keene
More Keenedom. Getting through the Keene backlist is easy enough, with the pace being what they are. I was going for a weekend away to Busselton and just grabbed a book on the way out. In hindsight, I would have chosen another Keene book, perhaps Ghost Walk or Dead Hollow, as there is a chronological progression with one of the main characters of Gathering, which I would have liked to have followed.
But nothing I could have done about that, right?
A Gathering of Crows has a very simple premise. The town of Brinkley Springs is a down and out, one road town that is slowly dying as people head for more lucrative places to live. Returning there is Donny, an Iraq-vet who is all set to leave again following the death of his mother, his reason for coming back. A confrontation with his ex0girlfriend, who attempted suicide the first time he left, interferes with his plan to get out of Dodge. Alongside this, consider a giant soul cage that has descended on the town, meaning no one can get in or out. Plus, five crows, which are in fact shape shifting men in black with a murderous appetite, have descended on the town and intend to make mincemeat out of every resident. The town's only hope is Levi, an ex-Amish man who dabbles in the occult. Perhaps it was an act of God to have him in town at that moment. But with Levi unsure what these entities are, and as the bodies pile up, Brinkley Springs is fast running out of time before it dies for real.
Basically, Keene has this small group of killers having a night of fun in this deadend town, and manages to effortlessly fill a book of about 80, 000 words. Not a bad feat, as it never feels drawn out or forced.
I adore books where the population of a town is massacred in a million different ways. Gathering is no disappointment (and it broke a wry chuckle to see spliced version of mutual buds SD Hintz and Jerrod Balzer be killed off via frozen slabs of meat). While the deaths are varied and very, very often, the Keene nasty streak - as displayed in Castaways and Urban Gothic - seems to be restrained in Gathering. This would make it be the prefect starter book for new readers to Keene, or for those who like their horror, but not too much visceral details. Don't get me wrong, guts will hit the floor and hearts are ripped from chest cavities, but we have no torture or raping. It's a case of wham, bam thank you mam. Right. Who's next?
Levi, of course, is a stand out character and as Keene says in his afterword, has become a fan favourite. Imagine the Amish fella from Diary of the Dead...but not deaf and with occult powers! Okay, he isn't as fleshed out in indepth as you would want in a lead character, but as I said at the outset, I believe this ground work has been done in earlier books. Still, you fell for the guy and want him to succeed.
A Gathering of Crows is yet another Keene book with eclectic pace that whips by and reaches its conclusion before you know it. As for Levi, I do want to read more on him and am glad I have two other books that feature him on my shelf and ready to go. A great read.