SF: Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Richard Kadrey meets Daniel Woodrell.

For 1,000 years Santa has kept his dark counterpoint Krampus magically imprisoned, and for 1,000 years Krampus has plotted his revenge.  This Christmas Yule he will get it.

Krampus is all the rage these days, most recently being featured in a horror flick.  Brom’s Krampus is a different sort of story.  It’s not horror at all.  It’s dark fantasy and southern gothic set in meth-ravaged West Virginia and owes more to writers like Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrell than Stephen King.  All set against a pagan, Norse mythology.  If that sounds like it’s up your alley, you’ll love it.  If it doesn’t?  You’ll probably still love it.

Krampus cover

 

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SF: Some Dark Holler by Luke Bauserman

For Halloween I’m returning to the motif of selling your soul.

Bauserman pitched an advanced copy of Some Dark Holler to me because I reviewed a collection of Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories.  I get a lot of these, usually with the author comparing their work to some colossus in the field.  But I couldn’t resist, being a huge fan of both country noir and speculative fiction.  I didn’t remotely expect Bauserman’s work to live up to that of Wellman, a master unequaled today in my eyes.  Does Bauserman’s work live up to Wellman’s?  I can hardly believe I’m writing this, but it very well may exceed it.

Some Dark Holler opens at the close of the Civil War.  Death arrives at a meeting with Scratch (the Devil) and two of Scratch’s lackeys.  A deal with the Devil will protect you from death for seven years.  In return all you have to do is deliver another soul.  William is his number one recruiter.  The first chapter (you can listen to the audiobook version on YouTube) ends with Scratch sending William after a boy named Ephraim.

(There is actually a really cool explanation for Death’s involvement and how he works.  Every human has a mortal imprint (“a kind of long shadow that trailed from his being and connected him to death”).  That allows Death to collect without personally attending to it.  If you sign a deal with the Devil, Death removes his imprint.)

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SF: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

Originally I was just going to run my review of Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls over at my SF blog.  But selling your soul to the Devil has a rich history in hillbilly storytelling, from Robert Johnson to The Devil Went Down to Georgia[1] to Some Dark Holler.  Dolly Parton’s music is an important plot point.  And it has lines like this:

Every song was the same song.  These were songs for people who were scared to open their mailboxes, whose phone calls never brought good news.  These were songs for people standing at the crossroads waiting for the bus.  People who bounced between debt collectors and dollar stores, collection agencies and housing offices, family court and emergency rooms, waiting for a check that never came, waiting for a court date, waiting for a call back, waiting for a break, crushed beneath the wheel.

That?  That is in the Hillbilly Highways wheelhouse.[2]

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