By C. Michael Forsyth
The novel The Revenant Road takes readers on a thrilling roller-coaster ride through the supernatural realm.
It’s the story of Obadiah Grudge, a snooty writer of gruesome novels who finds himself shanghaied into following his father’s footsteps in the family business — hunting monsters.
I read the book after running into the author Michael Boatman at the Horror Writers Association convention earlier this summer. At first, when I spotted his familiar face across the ballroom where we were signing books, I thought he might be a relative or maybe someone I went to school with. But turned out he’s also an actor, best known for his role as gay mayoral aide Carter Heywood on TV’S “Spin City.” (The brother garnered five NAACP Image Award nominations for that gig.)
Well, we might not be relatives, but we share certain sensibilities when it comes to horror. I can see that the same stuff that I loved as a kid influenced him. Remember “The Night Stalker,” that ’70’s show featuring unlikely monster hunter Carl Kolchak, a wily wire-service reporter? How the creature of the week would always toss cops around like rag dolls? You’ll find a terrifying scene like that in The Revenant Road.
Obadiah is reluctantly drawn into the monster hunting game by his late dad’s former partner Neville Kowalski, a crusty old coot. He discovers that he’s been recruited into a secret organization that tracks down and evicts “Squatters,” evil creatures that have snuck into our world and taken up residence. The story is also reminiscent of one of my favorite flicks, “Men in Black”, in which cocky young Will Smith and grizzled veteran Tommy Lee Jones hunt illegal aliens who really ARE aliens.
What I always like in a horror novel is that there’s a coherent and original explanation for the paranormal events. Boatman delivers this. It turns out that there’s a parallel universe next to ours, called the Wraithing, filled to the brim with nasty things. Sometimes they slip past the guardians of the universe into our world. The Squatters make contact with a human who, whether through thirst for power or weakness of character, is vulnerable and willingly accepts possession. The symbiotic result is a werewolf, vampire or even worse thing that goes bump in the night.
The book unfolds like a mystery, as the author slowly reveals to us just what is going on. I like Obadiah’s character arc. He believably transitions from a whiny, over-intellectual, pompous, self-centered jerk so annoying you want to pop him in the jaw, to a selfless, two-fisted hero willing to go toe-to-toe with the world’s most dangerous monsters.
Obadiah and Kowalski’s chief quarry is formidable: a giant, indestructible, Bigfoot-like shape-shifter. In the warm-up to their confrontation with the Yeren, as it’s called, the duo do battle with a slew of other monsters, including a Shaq-sized minotaur and, most memorably, a blood-slurping Oprah from Hell.
But that’s not the worst of it. Obadiah finally comes face to face with his personal boogeyman. That would be Carlos Volpe, a werewolf so evil that he had metal bonded to his teeth and filed to points so he could kill more people when the moon WASN’T full! He was hanged decades ago, but death only made him more dangerous. Like Freddy Krueger, the child-killer who evolves into something far more monstrous post mortem, in “Nightmare on Elm Street,” Volpe is a demonic entity powerful and clever enough to claim Obadiah’s soul.
I love that when Volpe makes his appearance, he doesn’t speak in that arch tone we’re used to from Bond supervillains. He’s hip and funny. When scared-stiff Obadiah asks what he really wants, Volpe wisecracks, “a lap dance from Condoleezza Rice with full release.”
There are such touches of humor throughout, including plenty of one-liners from brainy, sarcastic Obadiah. And it’s blackly funny when a series of literary critics under demonic influence come to do a hatchet job on him — literally.
The ending sets us up for a sequel, which I’d sorely love to see. More importantly the fast-paced, highly visual tale would make a darned good movie. And I know just the guy to play a smart-ass black writer!
To check out HOUR OF THE BEAST, click HERE.
On the HOUR OF THE BEAST front…
I’ve busted my cherry! I attended my very first horror convention, Flashback Weekend in Chicago, August 12 through 14, to hawk my horror novel Hour of the Beast.
It was a blast hanging out with horror fans and hobnobbing with fellow genre writers, comic book creators and movie makers.
Following the suggestion of a pal, Pirates of Savannah author Tarrin Lupo, I brought along a prop: a severed werewolf hand floating in a jar. Now I thought the thing would hardly raise an eyebrow in a dealers’ room packed with horror memorabilia and props crafted by Hollywood special effects experts and haunted house designers. But it worked like a charm, drawing curious attendees to my table like flies. These hardcore horror fans who live for special effects AND creators of those effects thought it was incredibly cool and wanted to know its history. I think what sold it was the yellowed paper describing it as having been “displayed by the Revlos Bros. Traveling Circus circa 1928. “ That and the REAL BONE at the stump — although one skeptical 8-year-old girl suggested the hand “should be scientifically tested.”
At the convention were movie legends Robert Englund of “Nightmare of Elm Street” fame, “Aliens” star Lance Henrikson, scream queen Linnea Quigley from “Return of the Living Dead,” Michael Booker of “The Walking Dead,” and “Hellraiser” stars Doug Bradley (Pinhead) and Ashley Lawrence — who now does really great and majorly creepy art.
I got to catch a sneak preview of the “Fright Night” remake and I’ll post my review in next week’s blog. Also stay tuned for the video from the Zombie Pinup Pageant. You haven’t lived until you see two dozen exhibitionists in full zombie makeup strutting their stuff.
Speaking of which, the biggest surprise for me was the high proportion of female attendees — and how young and hot they were! An extraordinary number of them were in the company of geeky C.H.U.D.-like boyfriends. I mentioned to my wife how amazing it is that so many beautiful, brainy women are attracted to these nerdy, creative-type oddballs. Kaye, a physician who looks like a supermodel, responded, “Yeah, Mike. Really amazing.”