Published by Amazon Digital Services
I have been a fan of Stoker Award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke for quite some years now and even had the privilege of assisting him in getting the “Southern” right for his horrifying novel Kin. He is the master of the mindfuck brand of psychological horror, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his most recent novella, Sour Candy. An ordinary man, an ordinary day, going about his ordinary business when all hell breaks loose…
Phil Pendleton has been spending some serious quality time with his girlfriend, Lori, one ordinary weekend day, watching movies, eating a LOT of chocolate, and making sweet love when the chocolate runs out and Phil runs to the nearest Walmart to pick up some more. Now, most of us have either seen the book The People of Walmart or had some first-hand experience with folks similar to the folks pictured in the aforesaid book so Phil going to Wally World should have given the reader pause right away. There are some VERY strange goings-on at Walmart on a normal day, and what Phil is about to walk into is anything but normal!
Chocolate in hand, Lori on the phone, and headed for checkout, Phil encounters what appears to be a really run-down, exhausted mother of a young tow-headed boy – the young lad strangely dressed in an almost Amish-style of clothing, and SHRIEKING… no, BELLOWING his lungs out over some candy he wants. Other customers are horrified and uncomfortable, Lori asks Phil what on EARTH is that noise, and the store manager tries to remove mother and son from the store. It is at this point that the story takes a horrifying hard left for both Phil and the reader as the mother of the “bad seed” suddenly grabs two fistfuls of candy and RAMS them into her mouth; and unfortunately for Phil, the brat from Hell turns to him and “innocently” offers Phil a piece of the candy. And Phil, unfortunately, accepts. Bad move, Phil. REALLY bad!!
What happens from this point on is as though Phil has entered a terrifying “Twilight Zone” with elements of Lovecraft tossed in to make Burke’s story just as psychologically and emotionally upsetting as well as terrifying as it can be. Another, this time violent, encounter with the mother and her “son,” being told that everything he knew to be true just a few hours prior to his ill-fated trip to Walmart is false, and finding out, when he and the police arrive at Phil’s home, that he must indeed be losing his mind are just the beginning of the most frightening story I have read in a LONG time.
Burke is an author who can spin tales of everyday people in the most extraordinary situations, much like Stephen King, but with his own special brand of emotional and mental horror in the mix. One line from Sour Candy neatly sums up what Phil Pendleton (and the reader) is going through:
In a situation in which every rational person is telling you a fact and you’re the
one who denies it, doesn’t that make you the one most likely wrong?
Chilling, isn’t it? And yet, that is the very crux of Burke’s novella – what if you, the reader, found yourself in Pendleton’s situation? What would YOU do? Read the story, and you will realize that neither you – nor Phil – have ANY options. Phil is a pawn of this child, Adam, and the creatures Adam refers to as “The Eldres” [sic]. And he is screwed.
Taut, frightening, almost painful to read (but isn’t that a good thing in a horror tale?) with great characters and an O. Henry-on-acid ending, Sour Candy is a must-read for horror fans – I just wish the novella could have been longer, there was so much happening and so much more I wanted to know about: Hannah Ward, The Elders, what was going on with Detectives Marsh and Gomez, Adam’s prior parent(s) – you may agree when you read about these characters. More, Kealan, MORE!!
If you have never read anything by Burke, let Sour Candy be your emotionally and mentally disturbing introduction, and then get thee hence to Amazon and catch up on this extraordinary teller of tales. He didn’t win the Stoker Award for nothing…