Books


Brimstone Turnpike is a loosely-themed anthology of novellas edited by Kealan Patrick Burke and published in a limited edition hardcover by Cemetery Dance Publications. The stories deal with everyday people having a chance encounter with an old blind black man named Johnny Divine at an ethereal gas station on a highway known as the Brimstone Turnpike.

There are five stories in Brimstone Turnpike, respectively by Thomas F. Monteleone, Harry Shannon, Scott Nicholson, Mike Olivari and Tim Waggoner.

Monteleone is a grandmaster in the field and he lives up to his living legendary status with The Prime Time of Spenser Golding. It's an outstanding story of a bitter journalist whose meeting with Johnny Divine turns out to be a catalyst in his own redemption. This story has it all: wit, action, romance, and social commentary.

Harry Shannon should only write suspense fiction with explosive action sequences. Or so it sometimes seems. His tour down the Brimstone Turnpike is called Behold the Child and it cleverly morphs from a police procedural to hard-hitting horror. Harry is a personal favorite who continues to hone his craft and improve as a writer. This is one of his finest works.

Scott Nicholson's Burial To Follow might not be of the caliber of the first two pieces, but it's still a damned good tale. Nicholson knows southern manners and customs intimately and his descriptions of a wake in a country home is dead perfect. This is a finely-wrought story by an increasingly strong writer.

The weak link in Brimstone Turnpike, I hate to say, is Mike Oliveri's Warning Signs. It's an unpleasant story of unpleasant people on an unpleasant trip to try to save their marriage. They run into a serial killer on the way. I didn't find it to be particularly well-written and there was at least one moment of complete lapsed logic. I didn't care for this one at all.

Brimstone Turnpike ends on an up note with Tim Waggoner's A Strange and Savage Garden. Waggoner is quickly gaining a reputation as one of horror's leading surrealists and this story is ample evidence of his skill. It's smart and lyrical and it is perhaps the best story in the book. I simply must find more of his fiction as he is astonishingly good.

Despite the one story that didn't work for me, I highly recommend Brimstone Turnpike. Even at its $40.00 cover price, it's a bargain. Especially when one considers the ridiculous amount some publishers are charging for single novellas these days.

So, Kealan and Cemetery Dance, can we look forward to Brimstone Turnpike 2? I'd love to see another volume. My own dream quintet of writers would consist of Chet Williamson, Nancy A. Collins, Gary Raisor, John Little and T.M. Wright. How about it?

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