In Dark Harvest, the novel by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Norman Partridge, it is Halloween, 1963. In a strange, yet familiar rural American town, a strange and sinister ritual is about to take place. The teenage boys between 16 and 19 are penned up in their rooms with no food for three days, three nights. Then, on October 31st, they are unleashed upon the town in pursuit of mythic creature known as “the October Boy”. They are permitted to catch and kill this creature by any means necessary, before it reaches the town church at midnight. For the one who kills the October Boy, it means freedom from a dead-end future… but at what cost?
This slim, stark little book is strange creation: part Halloween tale, part noir, part prose, it is anything but typical. It strikes as being similar to the kind of thing Ray Bradbury might write if he had wanted to write horror noir. It sometimes has the feel of a fairy tale, yet at other times it’s dark and violent in a very gritty way. Though I suppose that’s an appropriate contrast; not only were all the old fairy tales dark and violent, it reflects Halloween’s own duality: sometimes magical, sometimes frightening, but always mysterious. I liked how the book, despite its twists and turns, never spells everything out. It leaves it up to the reader to fill in some of the blanks, instead of spoon-feeding it to you. I can easily see this book being adapted to film; John Carpenter’s Halloween by way of Terrance Malick’s Badlands. I can see connections between Dark Harvest and other works in fiction, with its “rural-small-town’s-evil-ritual” plot harkening to books and films as varied as Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, The Wicker Man, and even (more recently) The Purge. In summary, if you’re looking for a quick, powerful read for the Halloween season, put Dark Harvest on your list.
4 out of 4 Skulls