I suppose I should be grateful.

The eighties are my favorite decade. Especially when it comes to horror. I'm far from the only one. Those of us who were there have the fondest memories of the era, and younger people respond to it. They love the slashers, the sequels, the vampires, and the teenagers who inhabit the movies. Stranger Things and the It movies helped a lot, but the love was already there.

A lot of writers are using the eighties as backdrops for their fiction. It's rapidly becoming a weary cliche. Most of them don't get it right. Grady Hendrix does, but Grady gets everything right.

One of the latest eighties horror outings is from publishing veteran Christopher Golden. He added another popular trope to the stew and set his story on Halloween.

The details. The details are important. Golden is old enough to know better.

At one point a character describes another as "looking like a John Hughes movie had fucked MTV and borne a child". All Hallows takes place on Halloween 1984. Sixteen Candles had been released five months prior to the story. The Breakfast Club wouldn't come out for another four months. No one was referring to Hughes as a brand name at the time. No one.

The same character joking suggests some kids are off smoking crack. No. The crack epidemic was years ahead, and was just barely starting up in inner cities. Small town people weren't talking about it. Snorting coke would have been a lot more realistic.

A lot of the dialogue and motivations are pure 2000s. Golden should have caught that stuff, and I guess the St. Martins copy editors were sleeping on the job.

All that stuff is annoying and preventable, but doesn't necessarily kill a book.

Christopher Golden knows how to write and he understands the construction of a novel. He's been at this game a long time. He's obviously shooting for a young audience with All Hallows, and it seems to be working.

All Hallows works best in its depictions of the residents of an average neighborhood. The emotional entanglements of the characters is interesting. As with Brian Keene's Ghoul, the scariest parts of this novel are the adults and the effects their behavior has on their children.

He is less successful with his monster, The Cunning Man. All Hallows loses a lot of its focus when the horror takes over the story, and I found myself becoming bored. By the end the novel devolves into cliches and I didn't care which characters lived and which didn't.

I have enjoyed a lot of previous Golden books, like Strangewood, The Boys are Back in Town, The Ferryman, and especially the Charles Grant-infused Wildwood Road. Sadly, All Hallows isn't in the same category as these novels.

A lot of Halloweens have come and gone since I fell in love with the horror genre in the nineteen eighties. Time has raced by and the memories of books I read grow dimmer by the year. I think I'll be better served by re-reading Charles L. Grant, Rick Hautala, Al Sarrantonio, and others than books by writers trying to recreate a time long past, and for the most part getting it wrong.

Written by Mark Sieber

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