Since today is Halloween, it seemed appropriate to post about a Halloween novel. I decided to read Norman Partridge's DARK HARVEST for two reasons: he has a reputation as a very good writer, and it was handy, sitting in a stack just a couple of feet from my computer. It was a good choice.
DARK HARVEST is one of those novels that takes place in only a few hours of time, something I always like. Set in 1963 in a quiet Midwestern town, it's about a strange ritual called the Run. It seems that every Halloween, a pumpkin-headed monster known as the October Boy rise from the cornfields outside of town and for reasons unknown tries to reach the church in the middle of town. Opposing him are all the boys from the ages of sixteen to nineteen, who compete to see who can kill the October Boy (or Sawtooth Jack or Ol' Hacksaw Face, as the monster is sometimes called).
To be honest, I wasn't too impressed with that setup. It seemed like something out of a low-budget horror movie (not that there's anything wrong with that). But Partridge turns it into something else with a number of nice plot twists and some excellent writing. I usually don't care much for books written in present tense, but if an author can make it work, I don't mind, and Partridge does. A little more sense of the time period might have been nice, but the story hurtles along so well, that's not a real problem.
This is a fairly recent book, coming out in a hardback from Cemetery Dance in 2006 and a trade paperback from Tor in 2007 (the edition I read). I don't know if there's a mass-market edition, but there may be. It's well worth reading, and if you're in the mood for a Halloween novel tonight and have a copy on your shelves, you should definitely give it a try.