I sometimes have to ask myself hard questions about this stuff.

I have a reputation of being kind of a hard-ass. People think I am overly critical. I like to think a better word for it is discriminating. I like great fiction and I don't always agree with the masses.

Then there is Rick Hautala. The hard question I am asking myself is, if I read Hautala for the first time today, would I like his work?

Rick and I go way back. I first read him way back in 1986. It was his famous hologram novel, Night Stone. I liked it. I was under no impression that the writing was anything near what Straub, Campbell, or Grant were doing, but the book was a fun read.

I read Hautala on and off over the years. I never jumped on one of his releases the way I would other horror authors. I liked most of them, even while I could easily see the imperfections in the work. As time went on I developed a kind of nostalgic feeling for Rick Hautala. His books became a nice, almost cozy reminder of times gone by. Simpler times, at least for me, and a more innocent time for horror.

I do think Rick wrote some very good books. I like The Wildman a lot. I wish more people would read his mainstream novel, The Cove.

Hautala works best when he is writing about Maine folklore. The Little Brothers stories immediately come to mind.

There are some gaps in my Hautala reading list. I'm gradually catching up. I recently acquired a nice signed paperback of his 1994 novel, Twilight Time.

Twilight Time
is a weird one. Rick didn't usually write such transgressive material. The novel deals with sibling incest, memory suppression, and multiple personality disorder. The subject matter alone makes Twilight Time sound like it would fit in the still-thriving Dell/Abyss line of postmodern horror books.

The plot is decent enough. In the hands of someone like Joe R. Lansdale the book could have been a classic. As it is, Twilight Time is mostly a missed opportunity.

What the novel screams for is a strong editorial overhaul. Unfortunately I think the Zebra staff was more interested in selling books to indiscriminate readers than trying to create quality horror fiction.

Rick Hautala came up in publishing at a time when long novels were the order of the day. I like lengthy books myself. A Lot. Twilight Time, however, desperately needs serious trimming. I could slash a hundred pages from the novel. Easily.

Also, someone should have done Hautala a favor and disabled the exclamation mark key on his word processor. He gets a little too happy with italics and use of quotations to express emphasis.

Twilight Time isn't a total loss. I trudged on to the finale, and I rather enjoyed the conclusion of the story. It's definitely bottom rung Hautala.

I asked myself if I would like the writing of Rick Hautala with my current reading sensibilities. If I read, say, The Mountain King, I would probably try another one of his books. If Twilight Time were my introduction to his work? I doubt I would read him again.

Written by Mark Sieber

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