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Brimstone Turnpike / Edited by Kealan Patrick Burke

Cemetery Dance / September 2008
Reviewed by: Blu Gilliand

Brimstone Turnpike is the newest editorial effort by Kealan Patrick Burke, an author who continues to carve out his own solid niche in the horror/supernatural genre. For his latest project he has assembled a talented lineup of writers (Thomas F. Monteleone, Scott Nicholson, Mike Oliveri, Harry Shannon, and Tim Waggoner), each of whom delivers a solid tale with one constant thread — a character of Burke’s creation named Johnny Divine.

Divine holds court outside an abandoned gas station on the titular Turnpike, a road that seems to be located everywhere and nowhere. The characters who find their way to this road are all on some kind of journey, and getting to Point B from Point A is only a part of it. The quarrelling couple in Oliveri’s “Warning Signs” is traveling the road to reconciliation; Shannon’s maverick cop is looking for redemption in “Behold the Child;” Monteleone’s journalist seeks truth in “The Prime Time of Spenser Golding.” The characters don’t always know what it is they’re looking for, but Divine does, and he always has something in his battered old case to help them along the way.

The tales presented here are good stories; nothing flashy or groundbreaking, just interesting characters doing interesting things. Nicholson’s contribution “Burial to Follow” stands out in particular with its dead-on examination of the oft-strange rituals that accompany funerals in the South. Waggoner’S “A Strange and Savage Garden” is another favorite; although it bogs down a bit in heavy exposition near the end, it remains a fascinating and enjoyable look at reality through the eyes of those who can bend it to their will.

If there is a weak spot in the collection it comes in the thread that is there to hold it all together: Johnny Divine. Although the mysterious man and his mysterious gifts play an integral role in each story, we don’t know anything about Divine himself by the end of the book. His motivations and character remain as murky as the man’s silver-hued eyes, and even the framing pieces written by Burke do little to illuminate him. Perhaps that’s the point; perhaps he’s meant to remain as much an enigma to us as he is to the characters in these stories. But I can’t help but feel that exploring the character a bit more would have made the collection a stronger, more unified work.

As it stands, Brimstone Turnpike works well as a collection of works by some very talented authors. Burke should be commended for pulling together another stellar lineup and giving them the freedom to run in all directions with his concept. Although a more cohesive collection would have been welcomed, this is still a highly worthwhile read.

Purchase Brimstone Turnpike edited by Kealan Patrick Burke.

Posted on Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 03:06PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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