Devil's Night - by Curtis M. Lawson
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
I first saw this book mentioned on Brad Proctor’s Youtube channel (though I vaguely remember gushing over the cover when it was released) with him flat out saying that it was shaping up to be one of his favorite collections of short stories of all time. Heady praise from such a prolific reader, so obviously, I bought my own copy.
The premise of the book is fantastic, all of the short stories are based in Detroit on October 30th in the eighties – the night before Halloween, called Devil’s Night, where Detroit went bat shit crazy between the 1960s and the 1990s and tried to set itself on fire. I kid you not. Detroit’s history is rife with paranormal devils and ghouls and all types of badness, and on Devil’s Night, every year, the people ran riot in the streets and become arsonists. This is fact, and it caused a civil response called Angel’s night in response, which more or less stopped Devil’s night in its tracks.
So – fantastic premise, and then it’s bolstered by the seriously stunning artwork from Luke Spooner (which you really have to see in color, I have both a Kindle and an iPad, and transferred over to the iPad to get to appreciate Spooner’s colorwork). Let’s just say that it adds a fantastic atmosphere to all of the pieces, and really was inspirational. Kudos to whoever dreamt up the combination, it worked. I’m impressed. I included a piece of the artwork below to illustrate the point, but it is also Spooner’s work on the glorious cover.
Luke, you have a fan.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The opener – “Trash fire stories”, was, for me, one of the strongest stories in the book. It played out the history of Devil’s night and gave context to all of the stories that followed. It had multiple stories within stories and a creeping sense of dread and rot, and you got to know the characters even though they were confined to just a short story. It was a slam dunk opener, and exactly where it should have been. It was then followed by Luke’s outstanding artwork for the next story, D20, shown below, which was a more humorous piece, and which illustrated Curtis’ craft, his ability to change voices at the drop of a hat, and the story itself was great, the concept strong. I’m not going to break down what D20 was about, I am rather showing that the transition between the stories, with the artwork, and different voice, pacing, and mood, worked flawlessly. Not an easy thing to do, but this worked like a well-oiled machine.
There are short shorts here – Fire sermon was great, had some wonderful lines in it that worked like slaps around the face, and the length was perfect. In contrast, the creeping horror of No one leaves the butchers shop built the mood and fear over time, the build-up to the horror that awaited our arsonist protagonists was tangible, you could almost smell the fire as it devoured the house, the monster it contained within not the least disturbed by the change to her environment.
Though I thought all of the stories were well done and self-contained, it was the overall arcing theme that brought the book together. An angel in amber leaves was straight-up great writing. The closing short – The exorcism of Detroit, Michigan – was my second favorite piece, the voice wonderful, the story perfectly told. I was rushing to the end on that one.
Not every story had the same impact, but the range here was fantastic, from stories on a boat in a river to a ghost haunting a house, from a druid fighting a parasite to a serial killer wearing a pigs head – all of it combined with the artwork propel this collection to giddier heights, and it is staggering to consider that the same person wrote all of the stories – it feels more like a really well put together anthology rather than a showcase of the diversity of genius that is Curtis M.Lawson.
You knocked it out of the park, Curtis. I’ll be back to read more from you and expect equally great things.
5 out of 5⭐ ‘s. A fantastic showcase of Curtis’ and Luke’s work.
You can buy Devil's Night by clicking on the Amazon store appropriate to you.
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