Prior to this year I hadn’t read a word by Chet Williamson (embarrassing, I know). My first exposure to his writing was in SHIVERS 5, when I was blown away by his entry, entitled “Marley’s Cat”. Later, I was wowed by his story “Night Deposits” in THE BIG BOOK OF NECON. Wanting to read more of his work, I asked for a recommendation here at Horror Drive-In and was told to read Williamson’s novel, DREAMTHORP.

And how was it? In a word: fantastic.

Dreamthorp is an idyllic town in Pennsylvania, full of quaint cottages, friendly neighbors, and a peaceful atmosphere. One day two of the locals are searching for treasure with their metal detectors when they uncover an Indian burial site. Their digging yields some coins, beads…and a strange-looking amulet. Once removed, a series of brutal murders start occurring in the quiet town, rocking Dreamthorp – and its people – to its core.

The story centers around a handful of main characters – Tom Brewer, a recently widowed teacher and sculptor who is trying to put his life back together; Laura Stark, a woman who lost a loved one to a crazed serial killer, eventually moving to Dreamthorp for a fresh start; Charlie Lewis, a long-time resident and local historian; and Gilbert Rodman, the man who once terrorized Laura Stark, and is still trying to hunt her down. As Gilbert makes a cross-country trek to finish off “the one who got away,” Tom, Laura, and Charlie scramble to make sense of the recent killings that have plagued Dreamthorp, and attempt to save the town they all love.

Williamson delivers in so many ways with DREAMTHORP. His descriptive writing brings the town of Dreamthorp to life, allowing the reader to visualize every aspect of the town, the people, the rich history…and the grisly murders. The characterization is also spot-on. Each of the main characters, and some of the secondary characters, is fleshed out so that we know these people inside and out – where they come from, their jobs, their loved ones, their wants and desires, their fears, etc. The reader can easily identify with the characters and will genuinely care for them as the story progresses. And, perhaps most importantly, is the entertainment factor. From start to finish the book is thoroughly enjoyable, combining horror with mystery to make one helluva page-turner.

One last aspect of DREAMTHORP I liked was when Williamson started each chapter with a quote from Alexander Smith’s “Dreamthorp: Essays Written in the Country”, written in 1863. Williamson was able to glean text from the essays that perfectly matched the theme of each chapter, usually offering a little foreshadowing of what was to come.

Tragically, DREAMTHORP is out of print. I’m not sure if there are plans to release it anytime soon, so you may have to look for a used copy. I was lucky enough to find a mint/wrapped Dark Harvest edition at a local store, which included a bunch of illustrations by Bob Eggleton. But, while it was fun to see the artwork, the story is what’s ultimately important here, so I encourage you to track down a copy and read it as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.


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