Monday, December 12, 2011

Flatheads / Byron Starr

Reviewed by: JA Gill

Genre: Horror

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words


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A small town undertaker by day, Byron Starr’s “writing hobby” has covered a lot of ground in just three books. This is his first book. He has since written Finding Heroes, a non-fiction book about the experiences of people in the piney woods of East Texas in the wake of the crash of the space shuttle Columbia and a novel, Ace Hawkins and the Wrath of Santa Claus. For more, visit Starr’s website.


With school out for the summer, Kevin Harvey’s fist day on the job starts with the usual hassle as the only “college kid” among a bunch of East Texas, roughneck loggers. Once in the woods, that’s not all Kevin has to worry about though; someone or something does not want to let him leave.


The most captivating aspect of this book is not the surreal horror, for most of the story a mere niggling nuisance, but the sere and redundant East Texas landscape—the story takes place in a region called the pineywoods. The characters are a product of the land, land they do not own though on which they depend, wonderfully reflected in the clipped dialect and almost mythical connectedness to the woods they log. As modern rednecks, rural, anti-intellectual, yet given complex inner lives, these loggers project an extreme parochialism—born and bred as it were—xeno-phobic at the county-level.

As Starr provides this lexical and bio-geographical insight, the unfortunate, and until the very end, inexplicable events befalling the hapless lumberjacks are oddly dreamlike: familiar settings followed by an unfamiliar set of events. In fact, there were times, even as the death toll mounted, when it was easy to forget one was reading horror fiction. However, after a certain point the conspicuous silence as to what it is our fellers and flatheads are up against grows deafening. After all, the willing suspension of disbelief is only nourished with well-placed glimpses of the terrors that await. While rich in local color, the fear driving the narrative never quite materializes.


Some crude language.

Format/Typo Issues:

No major issues

Rating: *** Three stars

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