"'You take out part of you', Roosevelt murmured. 'Take it out and blow on it and toss it to the winds like dust, and you say, 'Find all the missing parts of me. Go out among the world and find the missing parts of me.' But instead of getting back what you lost you just lose more. Wishing is bad. Wish long enough and there won't be any of you left.'" -- From Mr. Shivers
Knowing genre froms certain expectations. Admittedly, I assumed this book was a rather straightforward story about a scarred man whose appearance and reputation generated fear and legends.
Three-fourths through the book, however, I began to wonder. I happened to glance at the spine and saw Mr. Shivers labeled "horror".
"Uh oh", I thought. Cue either deus ex machina or the devil incarnate or something in between--but supernatural, nevertheless.
Nothing wrong with this, of course, especialy if you know the genre going into the story (which I didn't).
Firs time author Robert Jackson Bennett reminds me of a tighter, more refined early Stephen King (circa mid-80s) or perhaps even old-school Koontz (when Dean used a middle initial). In fact, come to think of it, Mr. Shivers reminds me a bit of the book It for some reason.
Jackson masterfully re-creates the dusty, despairing atmosphere of drought-stricken, Depression-era midwest. His deft descriptions leaves you tasting the gritty red clay, hearing the clickety-clack of trains on rail, feeling the gnawing hunger and seeing the ashy billows rishing from the iron horses.
As with most horror, though, Robert Jackson Bennett also makes you hear screams, the cleaving of bone and the spurting of hot blood.
Recognizing Mr. Shivers for what it is--a horror novel set in the 1920s--I believe that Robert Jackson Bennett accomplishes his goal of weaving a compelling human tale against the archetypal tapestry of good/evil and life/death.
However, one aspect that didn't ring true was protagonist Connelly's lack of emotion at his daughter's murder; I'm guessing that the author isn't even married, let alone a parent--which could account for the lack of shown emotion. Sure, he and the guys are obviously bent on vengeance, but I just didn't see it/feel it based on any "showing".
A solid debut, I think Mr. Shivers heralds a promising career for newcomer Robert Jackson Bennnett.
-- Janet Boyer