Reading Richard Laymon’s “Beware!” and Phony McFakename’s “The Gym” reminded me of how much I love that particular subgenre of horror in which supernatural mayhem intrudes upon the supposed normalcy of rural or suburban communities; those books also reminded me of how little I’ve read of Bentley Little’s work, an author who excels in the form. (“The Association,” in particular, has stuck with me through the years.) Stephen King has referred to Bentley Little as “the horror poet laureate” and I know this because I’m reading it right now; it’s in the cover to “The Revelation,” Little’s breakthrough novel and a winner of the Bram Stoker award for Best First Novel.
“Poet” is way too much; there isn’t a whole lot of “poetry” in evidence here- what Bentley Little does do well is linking likeable stock characters in decently-crafted horror plots. Here, the small Arizonan town of Randall looks like it might be the setting for a forthcoming Rapturous confrontation between Good and Evil, as evidenced by all the prophetic dreams, all the exsanguinated goats, all the crudely vandalized church facades, and all the gory miscarriages in the area. In short, it’s not a good time for horror-writer Gordon Lewis and his wife Marina to learn they’re about to have a baby of their own… And things get worse when the trade-marked deranged Bible-thumping preacher jumps into the narrative to holler about lakes of Hell. But remember, kids- just because the preacher is crazy, doesn’t mean he’s WRONG.
I could go without mentioning the novel’s big selling point, and its big spoiler; but I won’t. In fact, don’t consider it a spoiler, consider it a trigger warning, because it’s the decisive factor that will determine whether you should dig into “The Revelation” or stay far, far away:
How do you like the idea of an army of demonic killer fetuses?
RATING: COOL! and/or GROSS!
P.S.: “The Revelation” may not make a lot of sense on the final sum, but it does a lot of other things right, and one of them is the vivid picture it paints of the Mogollon Rim, the escarpment that provides a solid horizon for a lot of Arizona. The Hopi artist Dan Namingha is referenced in the novel; Namingha’s wonderful paintings, (particularly his geometrical suggestions of mesas) are a fine model for Bentley Little’s moments of geographical contemplation – the closest Little gets to “poetry.”