Written by Douglas Clegg
Published by Leisure Books
I love Halloween. Most horror fans do. It’s the one day of the year where EVERYONE is a bit of a horror fan. The costumes, the decorations, the movies and music we love year round are commonplace on Halloween and we can exhibit our affection in just about any over the top way we see fit and be part of the celebration.
But Halloween wasn’t always about dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door begging for sweet treats. In olden times it was a celebration of the harvest, of (hopefully) enough bounty to carry a community through the frigid winter to survive another year; a time of reaping what had been sown and honoring the harvest god who’d given his life for the crops that would sustain the people until he could be reborn again in the spring. An endless cycle of sacrifice.
In Stonehaven, a small New England town on the craggy coast still beholden to the sea for its bounty, the old ways are still very close at hand. But the founders of the town and their descendants have some very strange ideas about what those old religions meant. Stonehaven and its strange inhabitants both past and present is the sickly beating heart of Clegg’s Halloween Man. One of the town’s wayward sons, Stephen ‘Stony’ Crawford, is coming home after nearly 13 years… but it won’t be a warm welcome. He’s coming home to bring and end to an evil that’s existed in the town since its beginnings; and he’s not alone.
Unfortunately, that’s about all I can tell you about this story because if I were to attempt to explain anymore, you’d just get confused. Reading the book might help a little, but not a whole lot. Stony kidnaps a young kid from a group of cultists who think the boy is the Messiah and is bringing him back to his old hometown to do… something. Along the way, we learn about another man, Alan Fairclough, and his obsession with finding an ancient being that may be the devil or possibly a god. This side story doesn’t really tell you anything you won’t find out later from Fairclough’s own mouth and only serves to really take you out of the only interesting part of the story: the flashbacks to Stony’s childhood.
The chunks of story that focus solely on a young boy from an unhappy family growing up in a strange town with few friends but an old blind woman and the things that happen to him are by far the best part of the book. Clegg’s writing in these parts, the simplicity and genuine emotion, is strong. It’s only when jerked out of these parts back to the present and the grown up Stony and his strange young traveling companion, or to witness another out of context chapter of Fairclough’s search for the twisted divine, that the writing becomes a mix of sappy melodrama and grandiose ideas that never quite come together.
There’s quite a bit about family lines of humans who possibly mated with gods who come back from the dead, who are then mated with other ancient and possibly divine (or maybe monstrous) beings, which will result in a race that’s part human and part something else and possess great powers of both healing and destruction. Some people who worship the angel (or devil) are trying to bring this about, although it’s never quite clear why they are going to such great troubles, what with the ancient rites and sacrifices and so on, other than just to see if it works. Really the only connection to Halloween any of this has is that the ceremonies are timed to coincide with the harvest because words like ‘harvest’ and ‘reap’ have to do with death and they apparently like that. Or something. I couldn’t really bring myself to care.
There’s a lot about death and the angel of death; fearing death, cheating death. Death, death, death. It’s very cheery. Actually, if you like doom and gloom and religious fervor then it probably would be for you. But mostly it comes across as really heavy-handed and clumsy. There’s some good killing bits though and the parts with young Stony, his brother Van, his sweetheart Lourdes, Nora the old blind woman and the other unique inhabitants of Stonehaven, are very vivid and almost amount to an interesting story solely on their own. It’s too bad that the rest of the stuff is so distractingly scattered. I kind of understood where Clegg was going, but it just never worked in a satisfactory way.
Still, if you’re looking to kill some time, maybe while waiting to get a painful dental procedure done, or while you’re stuck on a flight delayed on the tarmac for four hours, then Clegg’s The Halloween Man wouldn’t be all that bad a diversion. It might even be enjoyable, under those circumstances. Really, if you can make it through the bogged-down bits to the flashback parts, then there’s something worthwhile there. It just depends whether you want a little trick with your treat this holiday season!
2 1/2 out of 5
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