Saturday, November 24, 2018

Book Review: 'The Bends' by Bart Hopkins

Bart Hopkins is a man of our times - in more ways than simply being of the age (around 40) that is most affected by every aspect of the world situation. Originally from Galveston, Texas, but has lived in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Korea, and Germany, served in the U.S. Air Force as a meteorologist for twenty years and has degrees in Liberal Arts and Education. As this reader wrote, remarking on his literary style on content, ‘But what makes the Bart Hopkins who authored this novel LIKE so significant is that finally someone has put their finger on the impact social media has on each of us, whether we fall into the category of Internet communications or not.’ The success of that timely and cogent book suggested the presence of a significant voice in contemporary literature. This time we enter the world of the supernatural and with Bart as our guide, the story is shocking but remarkably feasible for all its strange permutations.

Bart elects to place his supernatural thriller in a West Texas town where we encounter an Afghanistan veteran Kane, a musician of sorts, setting the atmosphere of this little town of Marathon: “Hello everybody,” he started. The microphone whined, and he adjusted it, then pulled back a few inches. “Name’s Kane, and if I do okay tonight … well, Bob might let me stay for a while.” There were a few nods, and a polite laugh or two. Not much, but enough, and the potential for more. A few of the faces looked grim. Even though he came from a town like this— small, in the middle of nowhere— he wasn’t from their town. Wasn’t one of them. They were used to transients. People moved through their town daily: tourists, climbers, and hikers. Those were the normal ones. They also had the occasional unsavory type, on the run from something … broken marriages or drug habits or maybe the law. Sort of like the Wild West, he imagined.’ Easing into a horror story takes a keen sense of timing and Bart has plenty of that.

And he opens the window to the derring-do of this Texas spot – “That’s six dead people this year’… ‘It’s like Mother Nature is conspiring to kill these people. Kill their cars, and then send in the animals.” And that hints at the horror to come – ‘Marathon is a quiet little Texas town, and it’s getting quieter. Kids are vanishing, disappearing like tumbleweeds in the desert wind. Somebody—or something—is taking them.’

To take the story further would be called spoilers – the building tension is so great that saying more would be unfair to the reader. As those who have read some of Bart’s other books, this one is a find – only it takes new turn for the author. He handles the occult and thriller media very well indeed. Grady Harp, March 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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