October 22, 2012

Rabid Reads: "What Gets Left Behind" by Mark West

What Gets Left Behind
by Mark West
28 pages

I may not have grown up in England in the 80s, but I very well could have from reading this latest chapbook from Spectral Press. Growing up in rural Nova Scotia during that decade, the last decade really before the information age found its footing, killers and predators were like urban legends: they existed on the six o'clock news and to hear there was one locally was like discovering there was a Sasquatch in the backyard. There is a sense of that in Mark West's What Gets Left Behind, as two young boys revel in the idea of a serial killer lurking in their hometown, yet still venture outside in parks and back lots for their own adventures.

The atmosphere of early 80s, small town Britain is captured about as crisply as one could ask for. Despite a few mentions of local trivia, this Canadian was able to get swept right up in the tale.

While the story begins in present day, its heart lies in 1981, when a serial killer called the Rainy Day Abductor stalked the town of Gaffney. Mike and his best friend, Geoff, are undaunted by this threat, since the killer seems to focus on young women, and only when it rains. Following a downpour, the boys are sent outside to play--a near foreign concept in present day--and run afoul of their schoolyard bully. In a dash for their lives, they hole up in an abandoned building only to discover they are not alone.

The first act of the story took a little bit in getting off the ground, but it did create an immersive backdrop and really took off once the story delved back to the fateful day in Mike's childhood. Perhaps nostalgia was the flypaper to my buzzing imagination, but whatever the case I was hooked by this story, as my memories of gallivanting through the woods with friends flooded back. The boyish mix of naivety and intrepidness came through with remarkable clarity, to the point that it rivals any Stephen King yarn like The Body.

If you can get your hands on this one, I wholly recommend it. As for me, I'll be keeping my eyes open for more Mark West stories.

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