Thursday, November 10, 2011
Amador Lockdown and Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter
Amador Lockdown is a horror story which starts, naturally enough, in a cemetery. There the cliche ends. As the Paranormal Posse is shown around the graveyard, a black shadow flits by Hector, one of the group. The chapter ends with an unknown voice; in fact, that voice punctuates some of the chapters. It quotes a dark force: "I am the power 333 of the 10 ether. I am a black hole. I destroy understanding. I sow confusion. I have set my feet in the earth."
At this point I knew I was not reading a run of the mill horror story. For one thing, Russell puts in lovely details that make the characters come alive. At the graveyard, for example, "Hector took off his black cowboy hat, and slapped at the sand on his knee." It's a lovely real touch that stops the conventional action and makes the reader care about the characters.
The real plot begins, however, when the Paranormal Posse is called in to investigate events at the Amador Hotel in Las Cruces. The location and characters are described with a sure touch, and as the horror increases throughout the book, with events at a quinceanera, a movie theater, and int the actual hotel, I could not stop reading the gripping story.
Thrown Out: Stories from Exeter is a different sort of book, from the other side of the country. It is a collection of stories all set in Exeter, Massachusetts. Coughlin is fascinated by historical research, and it shows in her work. She is able to give fascinating descriptions about the area, such as the background of Irish mafia gangs, in Bones of the Past, in which Ellie discovers some of the nastier secrets of her town.
End Run and Delicate Dance are extremely well written stories, but it was the title story in the collection that I loved the most.
In Thrown Out, the author investigates the gay relationship between Chris and Dan, and the problems that the love affair brings with it off campus. The crisis comes during a softball game, which Coughlin describes so perfectly that you feel you are on the bleachers, watching it.
Obviously, the author knows her stuff. More importantly, she knows how to communicate it.