“THE SUMMER JOB” / “THE FIRST ONE YOU EXPECT” (Book Review)
True horror disciples have secret codes and sacred texts that we trade back and forth, with great passion and faith. We may not have read all the books, or seen all the films – TOO MANY, TOO MANY for mortal mind to contain! – but we explore, we excavate, we follow the trail to the next golden jolt. Digging up treasures, to share with our tribe.
Almost exactly a year ago, I predicted that next-wave horror author Adam Cesare would become a full-blown Fango fave, based on his distinctive blend of genuine heart, encyclopedic fanboy gnosis, and fresh, crisp, rocking hardcore prose, banging on wildly-original recombinant riffs geared to make us jump up and down. Between the giddy, harrowing 80s monsterthon-mania of VIDEO NIGHT and the Italian cannibal-movie-gone-horribly-wrong savagery of TRIBESMEN, this was a guy totally speaking our language.
And now, as if to confirm my prophecy, here come two new assaults of Cesare — one novel, one novella — that to me confirm his status as the most cinematically savvy new writer kicking horror ass today.
THE SUMMER JOB (Samhain Press, paper and ebook) is the first of his books not to invoke film specifically in its plot. It’s the story of Claire, a smart young alt-culture gal who needs to get the hell outta Dodge when her low-rent hipster life blows up, and takes a gig as a maid in a spooky-ass rural New England bed & breakfast.
But once she meets the weird hippies who live in the woods outside of this remote town, the creepiness deepens steeply. It’s like Jim Van Bebber’s THE MANSON FAMILY mates with THE WICKER MAN on the set of Ti West’s THE INNKEEPERS, starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansonn from GHOST WORLD.
This is not to say that it doesn’t play novelistically, cuz it does, actually invoking no one more than Ira Levin in its subtle unfoldment. Albeit with more disembowelment and burning-alive, to go with its loose and thoroughly believable 21st century characterizations. Awesome characters, all up and down.
But here’s the thing. I found myself not just reading the book but watching the movie it supplied to my head. Its narrative flows, and its people speak, and its images resonate like motion pictures, with a seemingly effortless discipline that bespeaks more skill than is obvious on the surface.
THE SUMMER JOB is a really fucking good book, and a definite expansion of Cesare’s cinematic wavelength. Whoever decides to make a movie out of this has a doozy of a challenge. The line starts here!
Which brings us to THE FIRST ONE YOU EXPECT (Broken River Books, paper and ebook). And while this is technically a 21st century noir crime novel, its main character/first-person narrator is a small- town, no-budget horror film director, trying to take his slasher series to the next level. And that’s where the fact vs. fiction shit hits the fan, then sprays real live meat all over the wall.
I don’t wanna give the whole game away. But let’s just say that there’s a difference between “method acting” and “killing people”. It’s a line that should not be crossed. And Cesare clocks the beat-by-beat of it from the inside, in a way I haven’t seen since MAN BITES DOG.
So is Adam Cesare a new horror superstar? As it turns out, I don’t get to make that decision.
But I know a fucking rocket when I see one.
Read these books. And you tell me.