Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Fiction: Pitch Dark by Steven Sidor

A Chicago Tribune review heralding Steven Sidor's previous novel notes: "Crime fiction and horror fans alike will find The Mirror's Edge a dark, disturbing gem."

That line is applicable to Sidor's new outing, Pitch Dark, as well. A definite crime thriller feel permeates the set-up, while the plot revolves around a Lovecraftian McGuffin and builds to a supernatural-fueled climax. Think Elmore Leonard crossed with dark magic.

Much of the action occurs in a snowy Midwestern motel run by Opal and Wyatt Larkin, survivors of a shooting spree in the diner where Opal worked years earlier. Wyatt, then a police officer, helped stop the incident but took a bullet. Opal, then pregnant, almost perished.

As the story begins, Opal is experiencing mysterious visions, believed to be residual effects of the shooting, of which unanswered questions remain. Wyatt has long believed a second shooter was involved. The truth and much more will be revealed as their snowy Christmas Eve progresses.

Trouble has found them and more is on the way.

Max Caul, a writer of pulp novels and screenplays occupies one of the Larkin's rooms, carefully marking doors with protective symbols while holding up with his Irish Setter, Ann Margaret.

Vera Coffy is on the run and seeking refuge, having snatched a mysterious stone from her boyfriend, a thief hired to extricate it from a coven.

Max has a long history with the Pitch, the same mysterious figure Vera is fleeing. When Vera arrives at the Larkin's hotel at the same time their son, Adam, returns from college, fires, explosions and siege follow.

The novel's strongest element is its central villain. To describe too much about the Pitch would be spoiling, and Sidor has many twists it would be unfair to reveal. Some of the apocalyptic tropes are familiar, but there's freshness to the rendering.

Of those on the side of goodness, Max is the most intriguing. Elderly but alert, the Mountain Dew swilling writer lives and breathes. Vera, Wyatt and Opal, aren't quite as engaging, to me, though they serve the story and its action as it builds to frenzied chaos.

I might quibble also with the quickness of the conclusion, but in general Pitch Dark is a brisk excursion with distinct flourishes.

What writer's should watch for:
The subtle re-mixing of genre elements that breaks or at least pushes the sides of the horror box.

Further Reading

St. Martin's at the moment has a free short story for Kindle related to Pitch Dark's events: A Chunk of Hell


Charles Gramlich said...

thanks for the heads up. I'm gonna get the free story.

Sidney said...

Yeah, it should be a good extension of the book's story.

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