Johnny Halloween: Tales of the Dark Season Hardcover – Oct 2010
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The seven stories are: Johnny Halloween, Satan's Army, The Man Who Killed Halloween, Black Leather Kites, Treats, Three Doors and The Jack o' Latern: a Dark Harvest Tale.
Each story is unique in its own right, however, the stories that stood out for me were: The Man Who Killed Halloween, Three Doors and The Jack o' Lantern: a Dark Harvest Tale.
The Man Who Killed Halloween is an accounting of how Halloween was changed during the fall of 1969 when a real monster, the Zodiac Killer, ruled the night.
Three Doors is the story of a man who's given three "magic knocks." Anyone answering his knock is rendered under his control, having to do whatever he asks, and tonight he has a plan.
Finally is the Dark Harvest novelette, The Jack o' Lantern: a Dark Harvest Tale. Probably best known for his novel Dark Harvest (a Publishers Weekly 100 books of 2006 selection), Norman captures the same demented turmoil in this story of a small town with a dark secret. This was definitely my favorite in the collection and is where his talent really shines.
Norman Partridge has been called "a major new talent!" by Stephen King, and "writes as though his life depends on the words he sets down on the page," according to Peter Straub. When you have two of the worlds greatest talents making statements like these on your behalf, you know you've got to be doing something right.
While I may not be able to say anything that carries the weight of those two greats, what I can tell you is that Norman is a smooth writer that knows when telling a story you need to entertain. His writing is unique and focused and will haunt you long after the last page has been turned.
The collection is short at only 125 pages, coming out to six stories and an essay. I'll the aspects here.
Johnny Halloween is about a cop out on Halloween night, stumbling upon a crime and his past actions. It's smart and sharp because it gives you a set of facts, then each time a new bit is added it changes the context, giving you a real twisting tale. The last few lines I didn't quite get the meaning of, but that doesn't spoil this one for me.
Satan's Army is certainly creepy and thorn-prickly and interesting. The story does suffer a little because it's almost purely dialogue. There are no monsters here aside from people, no horror aside from the downward spiral of twisted intentions.
The Man Who Killed Halloween confused me. At first I thought it was a story, and kept reading, but no - it's an essay about the Zodiac killer; the Author grew up in the town where he struck, and this is about his perspective at that time and how it impacted his life. It didn't interest me at all, but I don't hold that against the author.
The collection suffers a little with "Black Kites". It's not that the story is bad, or the situation itself is bad, but the way the prose and the characters and the specific details come down, the story rubs me as a bit silly. Too much baseball and nun-chucks involved in the evil ritual.
Treats is neat. It's very short, and isn't so much scary as it is a little weird and might be a touch squicky but not really. It's hard to describe this story without giving it away.
Three Knocks is the story mentioned in the book's blurb, the soldier with the magic prosthetic. The tale and the voice in this story is very unique and catchy, and based on this collection it feels like a very representative example of this author.
Finally there's Jack O'Lantern, a short novella that follows up Partridge's Dark Harvest. While I found this story good, I hadn't read Dark Harvest and thus this pretty much spoiled the book for me which was a real disappointment. This story isn't just a continuation or "another episode", but deals a bit with a behind the scenes aspect of the Run and the Harvester's Guild.
Ultimately not a bad collection, but nothing that is a must read.