Hunter Shea graciously sent me his recent novel We Are Always Watching. I was honored, and even more so after I read it.
The story concerns the Ridleys, a family having fallen on hard times after the father, Matt, was severely injured when his car was slammed into by a drunk driver. Not only can Matt no longer work a job (he has constant vertigo and nausea), but he’s become all but useless to his wife, Debi, and his teenage son, West. Their situation forces them to abandon their life in New York City and move into Matt’s childhood home with his father.
The place is a ramshackle farmhouse in the middle of rural Pennsylvania, and Matt’s father, Abraham (a great character, by the way), is a mean, cantankerous old man who makes them all feel unwelcome and uneasy from the minute they move in. For one thing, he tells West that the house is haunted, and the old man’s claims are reinforced by strange sounds throughout the house and cryptic messages left by the mysterious Guardians.
In the midst of his misery and loneliness, West sets out to explore the surrounding countryside and happens upon one of his few neighbors, a pretty young girl named Faith. He falls immediately in love with her, and feels he has an ally and a companion.
One mystery leads to the next as you become entangled in this dark and creepy tale, intent on discovering who the Guardians are and why they continuously torment the Ridley family.
One important thing about this story—nothing is as it seems. Hunter Shea is a master of misdirection, which is vital when it comes to a mystery. We Are Always Watching will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat right up to its explosive conclusion.
I highly recommend this book, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Shea’s work.
I’m a writer, not a book reviewer, so I don’t normally critique books I read. There are others far better at that sort of thing than I, like Adrian Shotbolt of The Grim Reader, Jim Mcleod of Ginger Nuts of Horror, and Shane Douglas Keene of Shotgun Logic. If I’m not particularly impressed by a book, I usually won’t mention it in public at all. If I like a book or its author’s other works I’ll absolutely share it on social media. But when I love a book, as in the case of The Rib From Which I Remake The World by Ed Kurtz, I can’t wait to tell others about it. Because, like I’ve said before, word of mouth is a writer’s best friend.
This novel is spectacular. The story itself is a bit of a horror/noir hybrid, heavy on the “horror,” with just a soupçon of Stephen King’s Needful Things. It’s about the WWII-era town of Litchfield, Arkansas, which has been visited by a very odd theater troupe.
But the story is mainly about George “Jojo” Walker, a man who is introduced to you not long after a series of terrible events have all but ruined his life. Very noir. Just after the inciting incident—a murder in the hotel where Jojo works as the house “dick”—things go quickly sideways. What follows is the horrific tale of a man who must save his home town from an insidious evil while at the same time trying to save himself from his own past. Jojo is aided in his mission by a small cast of other colorful characters, as well as hampered by a pair of truly despicable villains. Whether he finds redemption or damnation in the end, I’ll leave for you to discover.
Ed Kurtz is one hell of a writer. There is a depth of imagination and intelligence in his storytelling that I’ve not come across in some time, and I found myself envious of his talent as I read this novel. That doesn’t happen to me too often, so you must appreciate how hard that is for a self-aggrandizing, hypersensitive writer like me to admit. But good is good, and Kurtz fucking is.
So I urge you to get The Rib From Which I Remake The World by Ed Kurtz, now. You won’t regret it.
Well. Maybe after you turn out the lights.