Cemetery Dance, January 2020
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Review by R. B. Payne
Every Foul Spirit
Crystal Lake Publishing
In horror fiction, there are often remote towns and villages such as Oxrun Station (Grant), Cedar Hill (Braunbeck) and even Ulthar (Lovecraft). In these wicked places on the backroads of fear, dark forces gather and do evil upon the innocent and not-so-innocent. These are off-the-main highway places where malignant entities rise and make a bloody and horrifying mess by ravaging pets, murdering children, compromising priests and virgins, befouling police officers, and corrupting any responsible adult who doesn’t have the sense to get the fuck out of town when the first flesh-stripped beheaded corpse appears.
Ultimately, to survive, our protagonists must risk their mortal souls.
Some prevail. Many do not.
Every Foul Spirit by William Gorman is a novella length tale in a longer series and this reviewer chose to read all three stories in sequence. The first volume is a long novel titled Blackwater Val. It is the origin story of Katie, the protagonist we find in Every Foul Spirit. Although Every Foul Spirit can be read standalone, the first novel really lays the groundwork for the evil that permeates these stories and the history of the cursed town of Blackwater Val. Perhaps once upon a horrific time you may have passed the road sign to America’s heartland. Be thankful you didn’t pull up for the night and book into a cheap roadside hotel.
In other words, read Blackwater Val first.
In Every Foul Sprit, a grown-up Katie returns to her ancestral home after several difficult years including a stint in an asylum because of her gifts and powers. A short story by author William Gorman titled Ransom is also available which provides a bridge between the tales. Drawn back into her childhood horror, she must confront a demon-thing she believed had been previously destroyed.
So, not so fast, Katie. There’s more work to be done. Gruesomely horrifying work complete with unclean spirits, blood and guts and… murder and mayhem, well, you get the picture.
Now for the warning! (Is this not always an attractant to horror fans?) These tales describe some graphic violent and sexual activities not appropriate for younger readers IMHO. The events are not gratuitous however they may be disturbing to some. You can’t have a vile demonic soulless creature who plays nice and Mr. Gorman does an excellent job of combining the disgusting with the real. His writing is peppered with visceral images that stick and his storytelling, despite the number of active characters, stays on track to the powerful confrontations at the end of each tale.
I have it on some authority that a fourth volume of this series is in preparation and I look forward to reading it. Mr. Gorman’s writing is crisper in the two smaller tales. Blackwater Val (the origin tale) was an admittedly enjoyably dense read however its through line was more like a rope than a thread. If you like stories with a wide variety of relatable monsters and victims, a strong young woman protagonist, undeserved misfortune (well, some of it is well-deserved), plot twists, and some good-old-fashioned small town horror, then Blackwater Val, Ransom, and Every Foul Spirit will keep you fine company on more than a few dark winter nights.
Oh, and yes, the town of Blackwater Val has a secret.
Don’t they all?
(c) 2019 by R. B. Payne, All Rights Reserved