There has always been something special about the writing of Chet Williamson. I began reading him in the mid-1980's, which was a time of abundance for the horror fiction genre. Unlike today, I liked virtually every writer whose work I read. In those days I trusted blurbs and reviews. It seems crazy now, but that's the way it was back then.

I can't be sure, but I believe that I first heard about Chet Williamson in one of Edward Bryant's reviews in The Twilight Zone Magazine. Wherever it was, I bought one of Chet's books: Ash Wednesday. Needless to say, I loved it. I was instantly a fan and I bought and read everything by Chet I could find.

One of the best things about Chet Williamson is how unpredictable he always was. By the late 80's you could classify many writers into the loud or quiet schools of horror fiction. If you picked up and read, say, Ash Wednesday, you might assume that Chet came from The Charles L. Grant School of Quiet Horror. But then you might read something else by Chet and get quite a shock. For instance, read his short story, Yore Skin's Jus's Soft 'n' Purdy from the Razored Saddles anthology. That one will freeze your marrow and is the equal of anything that was done by the Splatterpunks of the day.

Despite having an enviable growing body of work, Chet published less by the 1990's. I always thought he was one of the best in the genre, but apparently publishers and readers did not agree. Chet never really went away, but his output diminished.

Now, at last, we have a new novel from Chet Williamson and I couldn't be happier about it. Chet is known for writing supernatural fiction, but he also wrote suspense, such as the excellent novel, McKain's Dilemma. The new book, Defenders of the Faith, falls directly in the suspense fiction category.

Oh, let me tell you folks, Chet hasn't mellowed with age. Defenders of the Faith is a dark, DARK, story. It has graphic violence and sex in it, but don't worry. Chet is too good to use these elements in any exploitative way.

Defenders of the Faith is a ripping story, but like much of the best fiction, it has subtexts. It's about the ghastly effects of the cycle of sexual abuse. It also shows the dark side of religious faith.

Again, don't let that sway you away from the book. Defenders of the Faith isn't a denunciation of the belief in God. It does, however, show how something good, like faith, can be distorted into something hideous. Anything, no matter how good, can turn into evil by the complexities of our minds. The most beautiful thing we as a species are capable of, love, can turn into jealousy, violence, and even rape. And in Chet Williamson's Defenders of the Faith, Christianity leads to murder.

Paul Blair is a good man, a Godly man. A pillar of the small town he lives in. He becomes unhinged when his beloved wife is killed by a drunken teenage driver. Then he witnesses something truly horrible. Paul Blair commits an act of violence that few readers would condemn him for. But that's just the beginning for Mr. Blair. He begins to see himself as a divinely appointed protector of the youths in his church. God help anyone that tries to harm his children. Protecting, defending, children sounds noble, doesn't it?

Chet Williamson is a complicated writer and Defenders of the Faith is a complicated novel. I'm not saying that it's stodgy or overly intellectual. This is a lightening-paced thriller. It's just that Chet doesn't present right and wrong in clearly defined terms. You won't find the good guys wearing white hats and the bad guys with black ones on their heads.

Defenders of the Faith is out from Crossroads Press in an electronic book as well as (Thank you, God!), a trade paperback. I'm glad for Chet and I'm glad for Crossroads, and I hope that this book is an enormous success for all concerned parties. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is a book that I'd like to see in a deluxe hardcover edition. I'm not talking about some super elaborate monstrosity, but a nicely made clothbound edition such as is done by Cemetery Dance or Subterranan Press. Defenders of the Faith is a book for the ages.

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