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Out of the Darkness / Lesli Richardson

Lyrical Press/January 2009
Reviewed by: Rick R. Reed

Synopsis: Ancient evil forces a woman to fight for her life - and true love.

Man may forget horrors, but the land remembers. Built on a cursed patch of ground, George Simpson's house of evil has ruined many lives over its hundred-year existence.

Author Steve Corey rents the place as an early anniversary surprise for his wife, hoping it might repair the deep rift his alcoholism has created in their marriage.

Before they moved to the Simpson house, Samantha Corey thought getting Steve sober was the hard part. But the house's dark nature has turned her thoughts to Matt Barry, Steve's best friend and agent...and her old love. Can they overcome the ancient evil threatening them all from Out of the Darkness?

Review: Horror literature is filled with tropes. Look at all the rules, traditions, whatever-you-want-to-call ‘em surrounding vampires and werewolves. There’s a whole ‘nother set of well-worn paths when it comes to writing about haunted houses. It can make a confused horror fan wonder if there really is anything new under the sun.

The answer is yes and no. Even I, as a horror writer, will admit that something truly horrific and original is really hard to come by these days (for that, I would refer you to Sarah Langan or the early work of Kathe Koja, i.e. The Cipher). One of the many comforts of any genre fiction is that, with it, often comes familiarity. We read horror (and mystery, thrillers, or romance) because we know what to expect.

Lesli Richardson’s haunted/possessed house story is a good old-fashioned horror story about a house built on cursed land and the evil that comes to visit the generations that follow the initial evil and who have the nerve or naiveté to inhabit the land. From The Turn of the Screw to The Haunting and on to The Shining, we’ve read this story before.

And yet we haven’t. See, there’s no harm in taking a well-worn plot device like possession, ghosts, curses (or even vampires and werewolves and zombies—oh my!) and using them as long as the writer makes them his or her own.

Lesli Richardson takes the familiar haunted house tale and makes it all her own. And that’s why I would recommend this novel to even the most jaded horror aficionado. Richardson breathes fresh life into a genre that could be stale in less capable hands. She does this in several ways.

The first is the writing itself. It’s competent, economical, and has a voice exactly like someone you might know. There’s no purple prose, no flights of fancy…the prose here is every day, down-to-earth and readable. Simple but never simplistic. That same feel of the ordinary also extends to the characters in this book, who are not fantastic, but normal, almost run-of-the-mill people you’d meet in real life. What makes Out of the Darkness so terrifying is that it seems real in Richardson’s hands. This is not some fantasy world or a nightmarish vision (although at times it can certainly be the latter), but everyday people set down in bizarre and horrifying circumstances.

Richardson also gives the book a refreshing twist by creating two main characters that are (pardon the pun) hauntingly familiar to those of us who are familiar with the private lives of Stephen and Tabitha King. Whether this was intentional or not, you’d have to ask the author, but I couldn’t help but think of the famous pair as I read this book.

The setting, too, contributes to making Out of the Darkness a mesmerizing and original read. Not many horror novels are set in rural Florida. And because the author is a native, she gets beyond the coastal Florida we are familiar with from postcards, TV, and movies, and gets into the real heart of this southern state, where evil lurks just out of sight, like an alligator in a quiet lake with only his snout exposed.

So, like so many things, it’s not the genre a writer picks, but what he or she does with it. Lesli Richardson makes the haunted house story completely her own with Out of the Darkness.

Purchase Out of the Darkness by Lesli Richardson.

Columnist Rick R. Reed is the author of twelve novels, two collections, and has short fiction in more than twenty anthologies. He lives in Seattle, WA. Find out more about the author at his official author website.

Posted on Monday, May 31, 2010 at 12:34PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments4 Comments | References10 References

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