Category Archives: Horror novel

The Ghosts Of Varner Creek Is An Above Average Spooky Yarn, Maybe Even Way Above Average


Solomon Mayfield is 87 years old and running out the time clock on his life in a Texas small-town nursing home. Maybe it’s not surprising for a man so near the end of his life to see the occasional ghost come drifting through his room to float eerily over his bed. But for old Mr. Mayfield, seeing ghosts has been a regular occurrence since he was 12 years old.
The circumstances surrounding what triggered this special ability are at the heart of the plot of THE GHOSTS OF VARNER CREEK

This is a first novel for MICHAEL WEEMS, but he writes like a novelist with far more experience. His writing demonstrates the understanding that the best fiction is based on character. Yes, a truly great book needs more – plot, background, premise, conflict – all that stuff. But if you are able to create vivid characters and make the reader care about them, you’re more than halfway home to a great read.

Mr. Weems manages that and more. He wrangles all the elements of long-form fiction together sufficiently here to make for a fine novel.

So as the title implies, The Ghosts of Varner Creek has the restless undead as a central premise, but this is a very different kind of ghost story. It involves events that happened in a turn-of-the-century southern Texas, cotton-farming village that is still a few years off from getting electricity or them new-fangled “horseless carriages.”

Young Solomon’s father, Abram Mayfield, is a no good, violent drunk who only married Solomon’s mother, Annie, after he practically raped and impregnated her. Their subsequent life, as you can imagine, is not exactly one of marital bliss. To add heartache and pain to the whole situation, Abram and Annie’s first child is afflicted with Down Syndrome. Against this background, Solomon, a year younger than his mentally challenged sister, is doing the best he can to get along in a family that is isolated and dysfunctional, to say the least.

But how did all this ghost business get started? That’s what you have to read the book to find out — and few will be disappointed at the skillful way Weems cobbles, crafts and weaves together a story that is dark and gut-wrenching, but ultimately uplifting and hopeful.

This book has been recently available free as a Kindle selection, but as of this review, it is being offered for 99 cents – more than a fair price for a terrific read.

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Cliché Characters and Absurd Plot Elements Sink This One


So let me tell you why this book immediately earned a demerit from me – the main character is a tough cop with a dead wife. Why is that so bad? Because I recently read Season of the Harvest by Michael R. Hicks whose protagonist is a tough cop with a dead wife. I also just finished A World I Never Made by James Lepore whose male viewpoint character is a sad doofus with a dead wife. I also recently viewed the movie Inception featuring a Leonardo DiCaprio who is a tough agent with a (sort of) dead wife. How about Mel Gibson in both Lethal Weapon and Braveheart? Dead wife. Dead wife. The private eye Charlie Parker in John Connolly’s gothic thrillers? Poor Charlie is haunted by the memory of his dead wife. Russell Crowe in Gladiator? Dead wife. Even the great fictional secret agent James Bond, 007 himself — that’s right, he has a dead wife. Remember that great TV show NYPD Blue? Bobby Simone was a tough cop with a dead wife.

It’s just that – you know – I can’t stand this cliché any more. Hey, if you want to be a writer, then be a writer, dag gum it, and do a bit of work and thinking to create complex, fictional characters that have deeper motivations based on some kind of imagined life experience – rather than taking a cliché off the shelf, or borrowing a character from another book, and using him like some kind of “plug and play” module to generate shallow sympathy points.

But there are other literary sins here – one is a number of stretches were absolutely nothing happens to move along the plot. The most irritating bit is at least a full page of Kindle text featuring a scene where a waitress takes the character’s dinner order in a restaurant! In an earlier scene, the protagonist spends a chapter shooting pool in a bar with a buddy – he moans a bit about his dead wife – but the plot moves not one centimeter forward in this wasted stream of filler words.

I also spank the writer for a certain amount of absurdity. I realize this is a book featuring bizarre paranormal activity and that it is supposed to be fantastical and unreal, so to speak, but even events that are strange in horror books should create a sense of plausibility. For example, the bad guy of the book was once a traveling illusionist in 19th Century America and his “show” featured hypnotized members of the audience being forced to perform bloody orgies on stage, often ending in the brutal mutiliation and deaths of those audience members!

You know, even in the Wild West of 1800s America, there was rule of law, not to mention a more puritanical society, which would not have tolerated even the slightest public pornographic demonstration, much less bloody, sexual orgies with people killing each other in some kind of traveling fun show! Where was the town sheriff!? Who cleaned up the bodies after the “show”?

Come on! That’s absurd! It’s not plausible, even for a book of paranormal fiction!

Despite all the crimes against fiction, I give this author at least an “A for Effort” for doing some things right – including creating supporting characters that are vivid and believable – such as a sad little girl being bullied at school, and a three-time divorced grease monkey promoted to car salesman who has recently found wife No.4!. Now that’s what I’m talking about! This author has great ability to create unique characters when he wants to!

I realize this book was meant to be a fast, enjoyable summer read on the beach, and not great literature, ala Joyce Carol Oates or Gore Vidal, but even for light fiction the trangressions are too many to earn a positive review from me. I will say, however, with honesty, that I think Richard Brown shows great promise, he knows how to write, and I think we can all expect better books from him in the future.

Ken Korczak is a former professional grant writer. Find his advise on how to get free government money here: GRANT WRITING SECRETS