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Spotlight on: Black Fire by James Kidman

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Black Fire by James Kidman James Kidman, Black Fire

(In addition to the Leisure paperback shown here, also available is a special limited edition of Black Fire, published by Cemetery Dance.)

Seven years ago, eighteen-year-old Eddie Farris's life changed forever when he took part in what he remembers as "The Showdown": the night he killed his abusive father. He lost his girlfriend Rachel and the people in the small town of Black Hills, Pennsylvania, can't stop talking about him. He has become a celebrity of almost mythic proportions, with small children even reciting schoolyard rhymes about him. Now, after years of trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered existence, Rachel comes back into his life to tell him that someone is threatening her -- and all the evidence points to Eddie's dead father.

Black Fire is the debut novel of the pseudonymous James Kidman and it is a stunner. Kidman tells Eddie's story from three different periods of time: the events leading up to The Showdown; Eddie's attempt to remember those events as he journals in a hospital bed two weeks later; and the events happening now, seven years after The Showdown. Kidman threads these events smoothly together in alternate chapters and offers the reader only the necessary information to move the story along, leading steadily up to two separate suspense-filled conclusions.

Despite some mildly clumsy prose along the way (mostly at the beginning), Black Fire moves along smoothly at a breakneck pace. The last 150 pages went by in a blur, my eyes almost unable to process the words fast enough to satisfy my thrill-hungry brain. I simply had to know what was going to happen next and the book certainly gave me no relief on that front. Kidman knows how to write sentences that simply ache to be read, and his novel doesn't let up.

It is a reviewers' cliché that an ending was "chilling," that it "made the hairs on my neck stand up," or that it "sent shivers up my spine." However, cliché or not, that is exactly what happened as I read the surprising revelation that climaxes Black Fire. Physical reactions come few and far between in my reading; it is the same with truly surprising plot twists. These alone make this book worth reading and, sure, a rousing story is necessary in this kind of book, but what keeps the reader interested and involved are the likable characters, the intriguing situations, and the questions of what is true and what is not. Black Fire is a truly exciting novel that deserves to be read by everyone who yearns for some extra excitement in their day.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission.

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