You might all have experienced the feeling that sometimes the stars align and everything comes together (yes, even when the results might be less than stellar). I had already agreed to read and review this novella when my friend and blogger extraordinaire Beetley Pete (he blogs about everything, from photography, his dog, his years as a paramedic, to book and film reviews), started sharing one of his serials, called, The Old Remington. Let’s say that there are a few coincidences between the two story lines, although Pete’s is not a horror story, but… Anyway, go and check it out. Here is his story in full:
And now, I have another novella in the same collection and by an author a few of you will remember…
A Plague of Pages: A Horror Story from the Dead Boxes Archive by John F Leonard There is always a price to pay. A fun and fast horror novella.
Ah, the perils of writing …it can bring out the worst in you.
Anthony’s world has fallen apart. The good times have gone, the things he treasures have been torn away. Life in tatters, he needs to press the reset button and begin again. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
He’s going to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.
Trouble is, some dreams turn into nightmares.
Beautiful wife, successful business, plenty of cash. He had the lot. Until he didn’t have very much at all. It’s taken a while, but Anthony has finally discovered life is full of bastards and betrayal. Weary and washed out, a change of direction is just what the doctor ordered.
He wants to be a horror writer.
Write, and in the writing, redefine himself.
And again, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. He’s about to discover real horrors. The like of which are beyond comprehension. He could well get lost in his own stories.
Because some stories aren’t right. They aren’t just make-believe ink marks on a page.
There are worse things in the world than a little double-dealing and deceit. There are things that defy description and beggar the mind. Things that sit outside the walls of reality and scratch at the mortar between the bricks.
Sometimes they find a crack and worm their way through.
A PLAGUE OF PAGES is a tale of dangerous words and weird objects. The darkness of the human heart and a greater darkness that swims below the surface of what we happily call normal.
Occasionally the darkness pops up and swallows people whole.
It’s a cocktail of everyday evil and cosmic horror that will linger long after the last page is turned.
Maybe it will make you reconsider those unfulfilled ambitions, the stuff you always wanted to do and somehow never got round to. Like letting loose the frustrated writer inside you.
It might make you think twice about the items that slip under the radar. Those neglected trinkets stashed and forgotten in the loft or hidden away in dusty drawers.
Perhaps, only a possibility mind, it might make you wonder at the twisted symmetry we pass off as coincidence. The terrible, seemingly inexplicable events we dismiss as happenstance …and the thin dividing line between fact and fiction.
A Plague of Pages is an old school horror story, part of a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive.
Some objects are inherently bad. No rhyme or reason, they’re just imbued with something that defines them as wrong. Inanimate and yet seething with dark, horrible energy. Bad to the bone baby. Bad to the bone.
Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category. Easy to miss. They don’t jump out at you. Not right away.
If you look a little closer, you’ll see something unique. You could have one and not know it.
Approach with caution.
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation.
None are the same. Except in one regard.
You don’t need one. You might think you do, but you really don’t.
A Horror Story
From the Dead Boxes Archive.
About the author:
John was born in England and grew up in the industrial Midlands, where he learned to love the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains.
He studied English, Art and History and has, at different times, been a sculptor, odd-job man and office worker. He enjoys horror and comedy (not necessarily together).
He has published six books. A Plague of Pages, Bad Pennies, Doggem, Call Drops, Collapse and 4 Hours, and is currently working on a number of projects which include more tales from the Dead Boxes Archive and the Scaeth Mythos, and new stories set in the ever evolving, post-apocalyptic world of Collapse.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novella.
I recently read another one of Leonard’s stories from the Dead Boxes Archive, Call Drops (you can find my review here), thoroughly enjoyed it, and could not resist reading another one in the collection.
Much of what I said about the previous story applies to this one. Yes, if you love the Friday the 13th series, The Conjuring, The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, you’re likely to enjoy this. But, this is horror, and this story, more than the previous one, goes into fairly gore detail.
I won’t spend too long rehashing the plot of the story, because if you’ve read the author’s description you already know what is about. Anthony is a man who’s lost everything (well, not quite everything, as it turns out), and decides to try his hand at writing. Well, we’ve all been there (not perhaps having lost everything, but thinking about becoming a writer). That he decides to go old school and use pen and paper is more surprising, but his father dealt in antiques, and he has an interesting heirloom to put to good use. Or bad. Of course, things take a turn for the weird soon enough.
The story is told in the third person, mostly from Anthony’s point of view, although, interspersed in the novella are some chapters that follow the investigation into a very strange streak of crimes. In fact, the book starts with one of the most bizarre crime scenes I’ve come across (and yes, I read a lot of thrillers, so that’s saying something). A word of warning: if you are of a sensitive nature, especially when it comes to libraries and librarians, you should look away. But don’t worry. I won’t describe it. Those chapters of the story, told from the point of view of Detective Sergeant Shadwell, Adi, read like a standard thriller, with the case-worn detective, the less than politically-correct policeman, the uninterested boss, and will probably feel familiar to those who read in that genre. Adi is a likeable character and shows a good deal of patience and resilience, but we don’t get to know him too well. This is a novella, after all, and most of it is taken up by Anthony’s events. You’ll probably suspect that the two seemingly separate parts of the story are interconnected in some way or other, even though the first chapter is set up “After the Handfield Tragedy” (yes, foreshadowing or what?) , and then we go back several months to get to the main action of the book. After that opening, we take up the story of Anthony, which starts innocuously enough, like many other stories you might have read about people who’ve lost everything and quickly fall into a hole, unable to find a way of slowing their downward spiral. But there is the pen, and strange things start happening quickly.
Although the story and the cards he has been dealt might make Anthony sound sympathetic, and he experiences things that would have made anybody feel unhinged, this feeling, at least for me, did not last long. Yes, he protested and claimed to be shocked for what he might have unwittingly caused, but it soon became evident that he showed no true empathy for anybody he met, and he was more preoccupied for himself and his own safety than for that of others. He seems to always think in clichés, platitudes, popular and old sayings, and proverbs, as if he did not have a single original thought in his head, and when we hear from his father, it seems that this is a family trait. As was the case in the previous story, it seems that the objects belonging to the Dead Boxes choose their owners well, indeed, and seem able to dig deep into the characters’ psyche and uncover less than flattering characteristics.
I enjoyed the story, although as was the case with the previous one, I wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t enjoy horror or graphic violence. It is not a story likely to make you jump, but it builds up pace, and the events get more horrific as you read on (well, after the shocking start). The interim chapters from the point of view of the investigator (also written in the third person) give the reader a bit of a break, a touch of normalcy, although due to the nature of the crimes, this is relative.
I felt this novella is more likely to satisfy readers who like a sense of closure and explanation than Call Drops. We get more information about the item itself, and there are hints at the full mythos behind the Dead Boxes, which grabbed my attention. And the ending… Well, readers have known from the beginning that something big was coming, but not necessarily what. Yes, it worked for me.
Because this is a short novella, I don’t want to share too many quotes from it because it would make it difficult not to give away too many spoilers, but I thought I’d close with this short one, which for me encapsulates a warning we should all pay attention to:
There was always a cost. That was how everything worked. Supernatural or humdrum day to day. It was all the same. You could get some goodies so long as you were willing to pay.
Leonard delivers again. I look forward to more stories from the Dead Boxes Archive.
Thanks to the author, to Rosie and all her team, thanks to you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling!