Monday, November 1, 2010

Johnny Halloween

Book 64: Johnny Halloween: Tales of the Dark Season by Norman Partridge, isbn 9781587672231, 125 pages, Cemetery Dance Publications signed limited edition, $30.00

I've been meaning to read more of Norman Partridge's work since I literally tripped across his novel DARK HARVEST a couple of years ago on a business trip to Phoenix. I had left the hotel without any reading material, and if there's one thing I hate it's sitting at dinner in a restaurant with nothing to read other than the menus. This has happened more than once, and occasionally has led to me purchasing books I never finish reading. DARK HARVEST was one of the best impulse buys I ever made. So when I saw that Cemetery Dance was issuing a new Partridge collection with a Halloween theme, I couldn't resist ordering it and then letting it sit until the holiday weekend.

There are only 6 stories, plus an introduction and an essay, in this slim volume. The introduction and the final story are brand new; the other 5 stories and the essay are collected from various other sources but were all new to me. Only one story, "Black Leather Kites," disappointed me and even that story held some charm (mostly in imagining what it would look like on the big screen or HBO). My favorite story in the book is probably the title story, about a sheriff recalling the crime he stopped when he was a teenager and how that comes back to haunt him in the present. I was also looking forward to the Dark Harvest-connected story that concludes the book, "The Jack O'Lantern," but I will caution anyone who has not read the book -- this story contains a fairly significant spoiler about the events of the novel. If you've read DARK HARVEST, "The Jack O'Lantern" will make your heart-rate race the way the book did, and will fill out the picture of just what goes on in this small town on the night of The Run.

The essay in the book, "The Man Who Killed Halloween," is Partridge's first person account of what it was like to live in Vallejo, California, at the time of the Zodiac killings, and how that unsolved crime spree forever changed the way that town celebrates Halloween (and most other holidays, I would think). Non-fiction rarely scares me or unsettles me the way fiction does, but the story is so personal to Partridge that I felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing up as he described not on the crimes but the way most people found out about them. Perhaps it's because I've been reading IT recently, but Partridge's essay connected strongly with my reaction to the 1950s sections of that novel.

Definitely a good read if you can get your hands on a copy.

Individual story reviews can be found here.

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