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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge Norman Partridge, Dark Harvest

He's the October Boy ... the reaper that grows in the field, the merciless trick with a heart made of treats, the butchering nightmare with the hacksaw face ... and he's gonna getcha! That's what they always told you ... he's gonna getcha so you know you've been got!!!!! — from Dark Harvest

From the jack-o'-lantern on the cover, it's easy to tell that this novella from author Norman Partridge is a Halloween-related offering. Whereas most pumpkin-heads are fairly innocuous-looking, however, the one on the cover of Dark Harvest is positively threatening, which gives you some idea of the book's contents: intense effects in a short amount of time.

In fact, Dark Harvest is so much better than the early fiction that came out in the recent rerelease of his short-story collection Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales that it is hard to believe they were written by the same person.

You know this kind of story: it's the legend every small midwestern town has, and Partridge has managed to keep things familiar and yet fill this novella with surprises. It's got the nostalgia of Ray Bradbury's classic Something Wicked This Way Comes with a touch of The Twilight Zone and the kind of dark suspense that Cemetery Dance specializes in, but Partridge has also added a melancholy thread that adds depth.

It's that time again: Halloween night, the night when all teenage boys are released, after being locked in their rooms for five days, and set off to find "The October Boy," a midwestern nightmare with a jack-o'-lantern for a head and one thing on its mind: getting to the church on time (no, really). The boy who kills this awful creature (also known as "Sawtooth Jack") gets to leave town, or "jump the Line," something that has become increasingly more difficult, especially with Officer Jerry Ricks enforcing the border. But Pete McCormick thinks this is his year. He has stolen Officer Ricks' .45 and he is determined to get out of the town that has been holding him, and his family, and everyone else in it, down for generations.

Dark Harvest is by turns frightening and sad, scary and tragic. It is a pure Halloween horror story, but one whose ripples extend past the time it takes to read it (which in my case was only a few hours). The characters are people you know, only in a situation you couldn't have imagined that nevertheless feels entirely plausible given the right set of circumstances. I believe, even at this early stage, that Partridge has crafted a new Halloween classic, one that should find a permanent place on the shelf of every fan of the holiday who appreciates solid writing with no spare parts.

This is an expanded version of the review that was originally published in Down in the Cellar. Copyright 2006. Reprinted with permission.


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