Bentley Little's previous novel, The Haunted, was about as traditional a novel as he has ever written. Sure, it had some weird, creepy elements, but I didn't not find The Haunted it to be as outrageous as most of his other books. That isn't intended as a slight. No, The Haunted easily made my top ten horror novels of 2012.

Now Little is back with The Influence, and this time he pulls out all the stops and gives his readers one of the most bizarre, hallucinatory novels of his career.

Ross Lowry is an unemployed engineer who is low on his luck. Running out of options, he takes his cousin up on her offer to move to the small desert town of Magdalena and live the farm she shares with her husband. Everything starts off placidly enough, but soon things turn decidedly weird.

There is a raucous New Year's Eve party at the house of a corrupt rich man. At the stroke of midnight the revelers shoot guns into the sky. And hit something, which falls to the earth. Is it an angel, as some believe, or more like a demon? Whatever it may be, its influence exerts itself upon the town, and the luck of its citizens begins to change. Well-to-do people start to have foul luck, while poorer folk begin to prosper.

Not only that, the people of Magdalena are having unnatural thoughts and impulses. Formerly normal individuals behave in irrational behavior. Peaceful citizens turn violent.

And other very strange things are happening. I'm tempted to reveal some of them to you, but I would not want to spoil any of the delirious surprises within the pages of The Influence. Suffice to say that the town is subjected to surreal, frightening, shocking, and sometimes stomach-churning situations.

The Influence doesn't quite knock The Ignored from the top of my favorite Bentley Little list, but I do put it in the upper percentile of his novels.

Bentley Little has had a great career publishing mostly paperback originals from Signet. His fans have come to expect a new novel every year or so, and like clockwork he has delivered them. Other than some reprints and a story collection or two, Little has mostly avoided the small press. Until now. The Influence is a Cemetery Dance publication, and I rejoice to see it. His work deserves to be in hardcover, and I can think of no better place for it than at CD. I hope that their relationship is a long and fruitful one.

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