Saturday, January 20, 2007
Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
When Dark Harvest opens, we’re introduced to a scenario that seems familiar by horror standards: October. A small town. A young, angry protagonist. A ritual that keeps the small town thriving, though at the costs of a few lives.
Okay, I thought. I’ve seen this before, or stories quite close to it. The Halloween sub-genre is a particular favorite, one that a few writers – particularly Al Sarrantonio – have mined successfully. If this was what Dark Harvest was going to be, I was good with that.
But about a third of the way through, Norman Partridge turned the classic horror tropes on their head, then shoved them down the garbage disposal.
Dark Harvest isn’t about the young, angry kid. The star of the show is someone totally unexpected. Expectations are flipped upside down, and we’re given something we very rarely see: a truly fresh idea.
And all of this is powered by Partridge’s lean and mean prose. You can almost visualize the narrator spinning his tale, leaning against a brick wall, hair slicked back, a pack of unfiltered Camels rolled in the sleeve of a t-shirt so white you have to squint to look at it, scuffed motorcycle boots ready to stomp you if you interrupt him.
Dark Harvest is like a rumbling muscle car (running on leaded gasoline, natch) driving without headlights through the moonless night. You don’t know where this ride is taking you. All you can do is grab something and hang on -- there are no seat belts here.
But the driver is a master. And, at the end of the road, you’ll be glad you took the trip.
Dark Harvest is a relatively short novel, or maybe a long novella. Regardless, it’s some of the best horror writing I’ve encountered. Partridge – always a fine craftsman– just keeps getting better.