January 28, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Dark Harvest" by Norman Partridge

Dark Harvest
by Norman Partridge
Tor (2010)
originally published in 2006 by Cemetery Dance
197 pages
ISBN 9780765358714

It doesn't really matter if it's Halloween or not, as a good Halloween tale is a welcome read year round. Still, the menacing and tragic tones struck by Norman Partridge's short novel, Dark Harvest, would have been a great book to sit down with on October 31st.

Originally published in 2006 by Cemetery Dance, Tor Books re-released in October of last year, and it's a good thing they did otherwise I might have had to wait a whole lot longer tor read it. And I don't know who did the cover art, but it is pitch perfect.

The story is told in a present-tense second person point-of-view, which is not a writing style I've come across all that often. Hardly at all, if I'm to be honest. It serves the tone of the story though, with a kind of Rod Serling vibe to it that makes it all the more delicious, in my opinion. It's Halloween during the early 60s in a small Midwestern town, and Pete McCormick has been locked in his room with nothing to eat for five days--just like every teenage boy in town. But why?

Maybe it has something to do with the October Boy, a monster born from the pumpkin patch outside of town that stalks the streets on All Hallows Eve, and can only be destroyed by one of those boys lest something even worse befalls the town. And Pete McCormick aims to do something his alcoholic father couldn't do back when he was his age.

For a book that is less than 200 pages long, the focus shifts from character to character a lot. That's one of the luxuries of having an omnipresent narrator, and it is executed very well with quite a few characters afforded a lot more devlopment than I had initially expected. The book is fast paced, starting with the creation of the October Boy--literally carved from a pumpkin by one of the townsfolk--and moving between the monster's path, to Pete's, to even the malevolent sheriff racing around town trying to keep all those boys from breaking the rules the town has set.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a run-of-the-mill monster tale, but only if you've never read it. There's a lot more meat on the bone than the Run (the name of the macabre game the boys must play). It's scary and suspenseful, and you're not going to put it all together until the final pages. While I might recommend you pick this up when Halloween next rolls around, but why wait? Just go read it now.


  1. I loved Dark Harvest, and I'm a big Norman Partridge fan.

  2. I've been hearing a lot about this one... maybe it's time I try a new modern horror novel!

  3. One of my favorites. Great review

  4. Hey Rabid Fox :-)
    Nice review! Thanks for the GFC add -- stopped by to return the favour to a fellow Canuck ;-) It's nice to see more Canadian horror fans :-) October Boy sounds really interesting and like he could give pumpkinhead from Sleepy Hollow a run for his money ;-)

    @Will, if you want to start a great modern horror novel, this seems like a good place to start :-) But I love your older picks and the depth of your reviews ;-)

    Have a good weekend,

  5. Aaron - I'm gonna be looking for more of his stuff, likely the Lesser Demons collection.

    Will - It's really good and really quick.

    Kent - Thanks.

    Darkeva - Canadian horror fans are a rare lot it seems.

  6. I'm wondering if you read, The Haunted Forest Tour by James A. Moore and Jeff Strand. If I remember right, it was another one of the publishers "Halloween" books.

    I read it a few years ago and loved it.

  7. I just looked it up, it was a different publisher and there was only 500 copies printed. I'm not sure why my public library had one of them, but it was a great book.

  8. Grrr. Limited editions. Hopefully, this whole electronic age will resurrect those hard-to-find novels.

  9. Hey Mr. Fox:

    Thanks for the review. Glad you enjoyed DARK HARVEST, and hope you like LESSER DEMONS if you get the chance to give it a test drive.

    And it's worth looking for those Canadian horror fans -- I know, I married one of 'em (Calgary's own Tia V. Travis, who's a fine writer to boot)!


  10. And hello to you, Mr. Partridge.

    I have a suspicion this will be the year I get my paws on Lesser Demons.

    A quick Google gave me a link to Tia's story, "No Need of Wings," so I'll be sure to read that as well.

  11. That one's a sequel of sorts to TURN OF THE SCREW. Tia wrote it a few years back just before Halloween. It creeped me out straight thru 'til Christmas (i.e. you can choose your own verb: "enjoy!" or "beware!").

  12. Neat. That should a very good read, then.

  13. I've seen a couple of reviews on "Dark Harvest" - I think it's time I give it a try. Why is it my "to read" pile never seems to get any smaller?

  14. Yes, it is about that time. And I know exactly what you mean about to-be-read piles getting out of control.

    Mine is gargantuan. And there are more books in the mail, apparently.