Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + = email

2011 March 04 • Friday

The first line is, "This really began, I suppose, when I first met Colin Jones". Before that there's a quote from Hamlet: "'Tis now the very witching time of night, / When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out".

The story is about Joe Loomis, a doctor whose old friend Colin Jones comes to him with an undiagnosable, incurable disease that turns out to be the result of a Satanic black mass. Loomis is soon involved in the same mess and receives the same deadly curse. As he starts to waste away and each moment of his life becomes more and more painful, he struggles to survive. His only chance seems to be to try to kill the Satanists who have damned him. One of them, however, is the woman he loves.

C. S. Cody writes in a brisk and engaging manner and has constructed the narrative very solidly, though there are one or two points that don't withstand close scrutiny. The story is presented as the manuscript of Dr. Loomis himself, and the main character's first-person narrative manages to alternate sly humor with descriptions of dreadful nightmares (done quite well) and agonizing experiences.

The author slips in some amusing foreshadowing without Loomis's knowledge, such as how our hero, just before his immersion in the world of devil worship, inhales sulphur fumes from a match when he lights a cigarette. There are some similar touches here and there.

The story has a bit in common with Stephen King's Thinner, though the King novel centered on punishment and The Witching Night is about evil, pure and simple.

It's a page-turner and carries appreciative blurbs from Nelson Algren and The New York Times on the back cover. As is often the case in this kind of book, the hero seems to have a smoother ride than I would have expected. One thing just leads to another. His danger and suffering are made quite clear, though, and his story is a compelling one.