Saturday, October 1, 2016

Book Review: A Brutal Chill in August by Alan M. Clark

A Brutal Chill in August by Alan M. Clark
Paperback, 300 pages Published August 2016 by Word Horde

Alan M. Clark is better known for his beautiful award winning covers and illustrations that have been in the interior and the covers of works from authors ranging from Stephen King to Cody Goodfellow. His art is amazing but many forget that he was also nominated for a Bram Stoker award for co-writing Siren Promised with Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan of course has his artists eye for detail and has written historical horror before. Brutal Chill is the third in a series of novels about the victims of Jack the Ripper.

I reviewed the second book Say Anything but Your Prayers in 2014 and it made my top ten reads of that year. "This book is the second in a groundbreaking series that explores the Jack the Ripper history from an angle never before seen in over century of non-fiction and fiction inspired by the serial killer. This second book follows the life and demise of Elizabeth Stride the fourth victim. Each book in the series follows the life of the killer’s victim. Clark includes a few key Illustrations, but the strength comes from the attention to detail and the humanizing of Elizabeth Stride."

I am not sure why Clark Chooses the order of the novels and subjects but this novel the third in the series is about Polly Nichols the first victim of the ripper. It is the most powerful of the novels so far. If you are looking for novel about the Ripper then go elsewhere. You know the main character is destined to die at in his hands so he looms large but not a part of the novel itself.

Polly Nichols is tragic figure and not just because she was murdered by one of the most famous serial killers ever. Her life was interesting as it was tragic. She lost a battle with alcohol and lost her whole family.

In a interview I did here on the blog with Alan he explained why he writes about the victims not the ripper "The more I looked at what we knew about the women, the lives they led within the extreme environment of Victorian London of the time, the more interested I became in what existence was like for them emotionally and the less interested I became in who the killer was. The more I find out about London of the period, the more fantastical the place becomes in my imagination. As a real world environment in which to stage drama, especially dark fiction, it is almost beyond belief. The rapid growth of British society during the industrial revolution, the disease, the poverty, the crime, the the hazards of unfettered industry, the abusive employment practices, the amount of labor required by most just to live a meager existence, and the endurance of countless simple human beings—these are great elements for story-telling. Researching the lives of the victims is like exploration to me. I’m endlessly fascinated and frequently surprised by what I find."

In a sense this novel is less of a horror novel and more or less a period drama. It would be easy to dismiss such a novel as boring or not horror. Clark has a way keeping the dread alive in the readers mind with subtlety. This time more so with a creeping device a demon that Polly Nichols lives in fear of from her childhood. This sets up a genius pay-off in the end. The novel is so well written that I was engaged on every page with Polly. It doesn't hurt that I knew the tragic end coming. That is the strength of the subject but in the hands of a lesser writer this novel could have been as boring as Baseball on TV.

Ross Lockhart's Word Horde press is quickly becoming the closest thing to lock when it comes to books of quality. This time he brings us the most powerful of Clark's Ripper victim novels yet. I deeply human story that paints a miserable life in 19th century London that is impossible to look away from. Another must read from Clark. I think his last novel he Surgeon's Mate might have been even better. Two masterpieces in a row that ain't bad Mister Clark.

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