Let's see if I can outline a story synopsis:

A boy is on the verge of his teenage years, but wishes to spend one more year enjoying Halloween. Dressing up, going out and getting a bag filled to the brim with candy. His friends laughed at him all week, but he didn't care. A boy who loves horror movies and scary books doesn't want to say goodbye to his youth.

He's out with his little sister. She's a pain in his neck, but despite how he tries to hide it, he loves her so much it hurts. It's a windy Northeastern night. Cloudy, but there's enough clarity to see the full moon. Magic is in the air, and the streets and sidewalks are filled with monsters, ghosts, superheroes, princesses, fairies, and hobos.

He was warned to stay away from the dark end of the neighborhood. The one that borders the creepy woods and the old, untended graveyard. But the boy is making this last year count. He's hitting every last house in the neighborhood.

The last house is the scariest one. There've been rumors of an old witch who lives there. Stories passed down the generations of missing children, of blood-drained bodies.

His little sister is unafraid and she runs ahead. He calls to warn her, but she doesn't hear. She's as excited about all the treats as he is.

Just as she is about to step onto the porch, something darts out of the shadows. Something with hair. Something that stands up like a man. It has claws. And teeth. Sharp, long teeth.

His sister is snatched up and as she screams the boy is frozen with terror. He cannot move, even as he sees his sister snatched up and dragged away.

The boy is found later that night, in a catatonic state. He is rushed to the hospital, and is revived, but he tells an unbelievable story about something inhuman that attacked his sister. The police think it's shock and fear-induced delusion. They believe she has been taken by a transient. No trace of her has ever been found.

Twenty years pass. The boy is now in his thirties. His life seems marked by tragedy. His family left the small town where the Halloween disappearance occurred. He became a writer of horror novels. Paperback original books that are dismissed or outright ignored by critics, but are loved by readers of the genre.

The man was married, and he has a ten-year-old daughter. His wife was killed by a drunken teenage driver. Trying to put the pieces of his life back together, and wishing to leave the big city and all its perils, the man moves back to his old hometown. Into the old family home that has been vacant since that fateful Halloween nearly twenty years ago. Coincidentally, it is October.

Children in town begin to disappear. No traces of them are found. The man believed the vision of the terrifying monster he saw on Halloween all those years ago was an hallucination. It was a human being who took his little sister. There are no such things as monsters.

Or are there? Children are missing and the police are baffled.

The man begins to suspect something supernatural is happening again. He goes to the newspaper to research child disappearances in the town's past. Especially those that happen in October. While searching through old papers in the paper's morgue, he meets a woman. She's a cub reporter who isn't taken seriously by her bosses.

The two begin an investigation, and also embark on a hesitant relationship. They have dinner. They kiss goodnight. They also begin to see a pattern. Every twenty years there are child disappearances in the town. They go to the sheriff, who laughs off their claims.

Meanwhile, another child is taken. This time there is a witness. Only it's the town drunk. No one gives his account any credit, but when the two monster hunters question him, the drunk describes the same beast the man saw twenty years ago.

The man and the woman prowl the streets at night, hoping to see the creature. When a boy takes the trash out one dark evening, the monster tries to take him. The man and woman try to stop the being, and almost lose their lives in the process.

Desperate, they seek out a local gypsy fortune teller. The old woman looks into their palms and sees danger. She sees blood and death. She sees a terrifying struggle in the abandoned catacombs of sewers underneath the old waterworks.

The only way to stop the horror is to enter the catacombs to kill the creature. At dusk, on Halloween night.

There's no book I know of that has that exact storyline, but I've read dozens with similar ones. These cliches were hoary even then, but I loved them.

I was glad to escape the small towns when the original Splatterpunks took horror into the city. Times were changing, and the old stereotypes were no longer frightening, or even interesting.

Horror readers wanted autopsy rooms, S&M dungeons, nasty brothels and drug-fueled nightmares.

I went along for the ride for a while. After around twenty years, the old tropes began to look appealing again. I wouldn't want to spend my reading life in the small towns, but I damned sure crave a good visit now and then.

I crave Oxrun Station, Castle Rock, and Greystone Bay. I want to read Charles Grant, Rick Hautala, and Matthew J. Costello. I even want to go back to Harvest Home.

Thankfully, I don't always have to go back to the old writers for my small town fix. Kevin Lucia, for instance, is working in the realm with his Clifton Heights stories.

I'm sick of literary ipecac. I don't need to be grossed out on every page. I want crisp leaves blowing down a old town street on an autumn night. I want ancient evil and indian burial grounds. I want werewolves and vampires and ghosts.

I will continue to read modern writing, and I hope to never stop exploring the potential of horror fiction, but like a comfortable pair of slippers, I love settling back in a small town for a chilly evening read.

Written by Mark Sieber

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