What came first the chicken or the egg?
That’s something that has plagued me whilst I was reading Folklore by Mitch Sebourn.
Not the chicken, or the egg for that matter, but as I was reading this book, I had the feeling that I’d read something very similar before. It wasn’t until the final third of the book I smacked myself in the head and remembered what it was. It was Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider’. So I immediately put the book down, walked over to my bookcase and picked up King’s book, flipped to the front page to see the date it was published and you know what, it came out after Sebourn’s offering…
The similarities are uncanny; an almost parasite type of ancient evil. There’s the crime / investigatory plot. The our female protagonist Riley Saunders (she’s our Holly Gibney),who’s hellbent on catching and tracking down this ‘thing’ but she’s doubting that people will believe what it is that she’s come to the conclusion is this ancient evil.
Although there are comparisons, what sets this book apart from King’s is the darkness and the brilliance of taking a very overused and popular horror trope and turning the whole thing on its head, creating something that is deeply original and highly engrossing – I’ve not seen anything like this before and if I’m honest it blew my tiny mind.
Folklore follows some of the known conventions of this genre fiction, it’s hard not to with such a popular theme (I’m keeping this vague – although the first review on Goodreads has a huge atomic sized spoiler in the first line – but by keeping it vague I’m hoping that when the reveal comes you won’t have any idea), but the rest of these conventions are thrown out with the bathwater. The sheer menace that is deeply engrained within the prose is horrific and nerve-shredding, visceral and bloody.
While the comparisons are there with The Outsider (lets just remember again that Sebourn wrote this a year before King’s book) Sebourn delivers a striking and deeply unique story that will haunt you and entertain you. It changes the very foundations this whole horror mythos has been standing on for a great many years, it needed a shake up and well Folklore is the fricking earthquake that does just that.
We get a sprawling almost detective like narrative, but the plot is also gritty and deeply rooted in the horror genre. The tension in this book is palpable and the man hunt and scenes of violence / transformation are some well written set pieces that are put across in stunning detail. It’s also highly character driven, with a whole host of likeable and unlikable characters.
One of the main protagonists in Folklore is Dean Mitchell a small town lawyer who’s down on his luck, he’s spending his time working for the townsfolk but it’s nothing that interests him it just pays the bills; until one day he starts working for Mary Evenware, an old lady who’s got a property she’s having demolished and wants to use Dean to write up some deeds. But before he can do that he wants to head out to the farmstead to just check a few things over, and to locate the man he has to serve papers on, who it just so happens is the person hired to demolish this house. But what he finds when he gets there shakes him to his very core.
Dean was a character that Sebourn wrote perfectly, at the start I warmed to him, after a few chapters I thought ‘I’m not feeling this guys vibe‘, and by the end of the book I hated that sonofabitch. He’s a great character, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the characterisations that Sebourn adds, the little flippant comments, the subtle things he adds into the prose, each part of this revealing of character gives the reader someone that you love to hate. It’s brilliant, as is the majority of Sebourn’s character work. The only slight negative I have on that front is that the beginning of the book seems like a huge information dump with little depth given to each character, it was like he was sounding off a register of people, with only a few little details, so that when the story started and these characters took on more of a prominent role, I have to say I struggled to work out who was who for a while but this settled down as the story progressed and I got into the swing of things (it’s a personal preference thing – I like to warm up to characters instead of having them all thrust upon me at once and at the start).
‘She probably still loved him, but she wanted no part of him.’
Mitch Sebourn’s prose is tight and reads very well, he’s an author I will be continuing to seek out, I’ve another book ‘Dust & Time‘ which is not a sequel as such but has the recurring character of Riley Saunders in it. He has created a unique yarn here that really, as mentioned above, takes this overcrowded trope of horror and gives it a new lease of life. I have to say I was taken aback by how original this was, it was a breath of fresh air to what has become (in my opinion) quite a stagnant field dealing with this type of lore.
‘Probably he was on the brink of a breakdown, though he wasn’t sure he could break any further.’
Having said that I did find some issues with the pacing of this book, it felt that some scenes, some chapters of the book could have been cut, they seemed to zap any power or tension that Sebourn had painstakingly created, and they didn’t add anything to the story (you’d have someone looking for something, not knowing what they were looking for and then not find anything) and if it doesn’t add to the story, for me, it’s filler not killer.
It’s odd but I also found the phrasing of sentences a bit off, I originally thought they were typos, but it might be the way Sebourn writes (this is the first thing I’ve read of his) but an example would be, ‘a sand grain‘ instead of ‘a grain of sand‘ – this happened a lot for me. Is it me? Is it the way I’d prefer to read something? Do I have issues? The answer is probably yes to all of those, but for me, when these strange structures popped up, it jarred me out of the story I was enjoying, and I had to re-read some a few times before I could move on. But nevertheless – I bloody loved this first outing and I’m looking forward to discovering more of Mitch Sebourn’s work.
Folklore is a creepy, visceral and is a unique blend of horror and crime. It’s like the creepy father of Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider’. Sebourn takes an old and filthy rug; stained in horror conventions and outdated tropes of this particular folklore, hangs it up over a clothesline and beats the living shit out of it. After the dust has settled we witness a new rug, and a new breed of horror. It’s insidious, it’s dark, it’s grotesque and very, very bloody.
Folklore is available here.
Mitch Sebourn is currently working his way through law school while (not so) secretly focussing most of his attention on trying to write The Great American Classic. He has published three novels and a collection of poetry in paperback, as well as a new novel, Watershed, available as a Kindle eBook.
He enjoys reading, writing, hiking, and is looking forward to being married next July.
When he is not sitting atop Tikaboo Peak spying on the inhabitants of Area 51, or scaling the slopes of Colorado’s 14ers, he can typically be found calling the Hogs in central Arkansas.
Review by Ross Jeffery
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