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HAWG / Steven Shrewsbury

Graveside Tales / August 2008
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

Drug mules. Addicts. Gun-toting bikers. An old farmer preparing ye for the way of the Lord. A father who is just trying to keep his family safe. And a cop who is trying to figure out what kind of hell has been unleashed on Miller’s Fork, a rural central Illinois town. If action-packed horror is what ye seek, then look no further than Steven Shrewsbury’s HAWG.

HAWG has all the elements of a good action/horror adventure. The story opens on Mr. Solow’s farm. Solow is in the process of castrating piglets when a drug runner’s botched robbery attempt goes horribly wrong. Solow’s assailants are turned over to the pig-man monster, the one Solow calls Hawg.

After enjoying the victor’s spoils, Hawg escapes the Solow farm. The people of Miller’s Fork think strange events – like the death of the Ellington family’s pit bull – are a nuisance caused by a roving pack of wolves. It’s not until youngsters Jordan White and Cassidy Ellington escape from the titular creature by hiding in an abandoned mineshaft that the grown-ups start believing that the threat is real.

Jordan’s father, Andrew, joins forces with his brother, Doug, the town’s sheriff to bring peace back to this quiet country town. They also receive help from unlikely sources — such as Hux, a biker who barely survived his own run-in with the beast.

While the story is entertaining overall, savvy genre readers may be reminded of another action-packed adventure — Mad Dogs by Brian Hodge. In Mad Dogs, the reader knows immediately that Jamey Shepard is Hodge’s protagonist. While Hodge also used multiple viewpoints to tell his tale, he never lost sight of whose story he was telling. The transitions from one viewpoint to another were seamless and each of the viewpoint characters had their own distinct story arc that Hodge successfully brought to completion.

In Shrewsbury’s HAWG, this reviewer noticed that while it was easy to get caught up in the plot and the action as it unfolded, there was a disconnect from the characters at various stages throughout — perhaps attributable to the author’s execution of the multiple viewpoints. The protagonist is not immediately evident, leaving the reader to wonder whom they should be rooting for.

Another point of contention: the author’s use of rape as a plot device. If an author is going to put a character through something as traumatic as rape, the author owes it to the reader to portray that event with sincerity. Make it brutal and real to the reader. While the author need not describe the rape itself in graphic detail, the event itself should come off as real and should do justice to the emotions that such a brutal event would cause. In this case, the portrayal of rape that occurs after the initial incident in the prologue leans toward the gratuitous versus being an integral component of the plot.

That said, HAWG introduces us not only to the pig-man but many other human monsters. Shrewsbury leaves open the possibility of a return to Miller’s Fork and if he decides to take readers back there, this reviewer hopes we’ll see more of them – particularly Mr. Solow – next time around.

Purchase Steven Shrewsbury’s HAWG.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 01:34PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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