38) Coffin County by Gary A. Braunbeck (2008, Leisure Books, 334 pages)
This is a complex tale spanning about 200 years worth of history in Braunbeck’s oft revisited, fictional locale of Cedar Hill, Ohio. The epigraph page invokes the tragic shootings at University of Texas, San Ysidro, Columbine, and Virginia Tech alongside several passages about madness, selflessness and love... This novel is an attempt to understand chaos and the sort of violence committed at those four locales (among others) by introducing similar acts to large town/small city Cedar Hill... While the actual violence is, for the most part, kept off stage, the work does not shy away from the aftermath.
At turns startling, depressing, provocative, stomach churning, thoughtful, and reprehensible, the book communicates its grim meditations in beautiful prose. I find myself conflicted. Part of me absolutely despises the work’s cosmological conceit (which I feel runs the dangerous line of trivializing the aforementioned tragedies), and yet the book has done what Kafka tells us books should do. It got my mind turning, even as it horrified me; this horror is not the simplistic “Boo!” or “Ewww, Gross!” or creepy atmosphere, but something far less enjoyable, something that hit me on a deeper level. While it did not quite make me nauseous (as the amoral underpinning of David J. Schow’s “Bad Guy Hats” did, when I first read it; BGH is the only piece of fiction that brought me close to actually puking), Coffin County certainly shook me up. There were times I seriously wanted to throw the book against the wall for what it had to say about violence and those who perform it, yet I read through to the end. I doubt I will ever read this one again, and yet I will keep it on my shelf. This book has teeth.
The novel itself is short (270 of the 334 pages). It is followed by two short stories, also set in the town...
This book makes me wonder if I am losing my spine for real horror.
A more in depth review will appear at Horror Reader, soon.
Currently Reading: Well, I should be reading Jack Ketchum's Old Flames (I started it this morning!), but the notion of going from one emotional toilet snake of a book to another leaves me... less than enthused at the moment.