Before I go on, some disclosure. Kevin Lucia is a friend of mine, one of the other authors who gave life to the deviant Hiram Grange in a series of novellas for Shroud Publishing. We’ve stayed in touch ever since, and got the chance to meet in person for the first time last year at Anthocon. Not only is Kevin a friend, but I was one of his pre-readers for this book (I read and gave feedback on an early draft). That’s the reason you won’t see me leaving an Amazon review of the book – I feel a bit too partial, given that I has a small involvement pre-publication.
Kevin’s been diligently writing and being published in the independent press for several years now, and Things Slip Through is a collection of some of his previously published work and some new material. I was delighted and relieved when I read it (I don’t offer to pre-read stuff often, because I can’t bear telling friends that their work doesn’t work). The majority of the stories were new to me, and they’re immediately engaging in a way that reminds me of the likes of Stephen King. I know that’s said often, but in this case it’s true. I’m not saying that Lucia is the equal of King – that would just be silly (sorry Kevin, but I have few writing idols and he’s one of them). What I mean is that both writers share a deep interest in characters, and create people that feel authentic and are a pleasure to read. That’s something many writers of dark fiction completely forget to do, and is a real gift to the reader. Within a page or two you’re caught up in a character’s life, and the pages turn themselves after that.
The stories are all set in the fictional town of Clifton Heights in the US, and Kevin builds the town up a street and a story at a time until it starts to feel very real indeed. He’s not the only writer to play this literary game – in fact it’s a rather common past time of horror authors, particularly in the US. However, Kevin has a trick up his sleeve that refreshes things considerably – without shouting about it, Things Slip Through is secretly a novel that’s not just set in the town, but about it.
This is achieved through a framing narrative that becomes rather more as the book progresses, about a sheriff trying to dig into the reason why so many strange and sinister things happen in this odd little town. At first it’s a fairly traditional framing narrative, a way to link and comment on the individual stories it supports. As the tales keep coming and the canvas broadens, the framing narrative slowly starts to subvert the stories until by the conclusion it feels that this was the point all along. It’s smart, organic, and pulls you into the book in ways that make other single author collections look on in envy.
If you’re at all interested in horror, particularly its quiet cul-de-sacs where the ordinary has weird and inexplicable edges, then you should stretch your xmas budget and make sure this ends up on your shelf or your kindle. Hiram Grange and the Chosen One might have been Kevin’s first time as the sole author of a book, but I’m not sure that technically counts as his ‘debut’ ((Hiram, vainglorious bastard that he is, tends to take all the credit). Things Slip Through is a chance to see what Kevin Lucia is all about, left to his own devices. The satisfying answer is that he is a weaver of fine, gripping tales. This is the sort of book that might lead to a much longer relationship with the author and his stories, and that’s a good thing for all involved.
Buy it, is what I’m saying.
Currently reading (novel): Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Currently reading (novel): Jonny Alucard by Kim Newman
Currently reading (short stories): The Weird, edited by Jeff Vandermeer.
Currently reading (short stories): Gotrek and Felix: The Anthology, edited by Christian Dunn.