When I first read Kev Harrison earlier this year (The Balance) I was blown away by his offering, and I made it a conscious effort to support and follow this very talented writer, so I was delighted to see that Demain Publishing (who have published him previously – Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See) were publishing a new offering from him – and well, I just had to get it.
I picked up Curfew like so many of the Demain titles as I segued between a larger book for review, they are what the tagline says ‘short, sharp, shocks‘ and I tend to use these as a palate cleanser. So having finished a rather large book (‘Salem’s Lot) and before starting another (Salt Blood), I reached out and picked up Curfew.
The rain was pouring down outside my window, storm clouds were dark and brooding and the wind was battering my house, and not to mention a leaky gutter all ensured that my reading experience would be affected in some way – but I wasn’t prepared for how.
I fired up my Kindle (it’s only available in Kindle at the moment – but I’ll be picking up the paperback when it’s out – you gotta keep supporting indie authors) and started reading – and boy what a reading experience; because the rain and wind that I was surrounded with, was also present in the book and by some strange osmosis – these factors seemed to bleed from the book and back into the pages to heighten my reading and I became fully immersed in this dark tale that pours from Harrison’s pen.
We follow two protagonists a couple (man and woman) as they head off to Bournemouth to celebrate their anniversary, they check into a dingy little hotel, one that seems to have been frozen in time and where Harrison lets his imagination run wild, and conjures up an amazing sense of place. Harrison’s work in The Balance also has this real rendering sense of place, his writing seems to pull the reader up by the scruff of their neck, drag them to wherever his stories are set and then he dumps you down right in the middle of a fully realised and painstakingly developed world that there is no escape from.
And so our protagonists find themselves in this hotel in Bournemouth (a place it seems where hope goes to die), whilst the rain is hammering down and they sit awkwardly in the reception room and await the introductions from the owner of the hotel a beautifully rendered and most strange woman, Mrs. Heinze.
Mrs. Heinze introduces herself to the couple and starts to detail the rules of the hotel to them. The first rule is that breakfast is served from 7am – 10:30am, the second rule is that because it is a bank holiday they need to check out at 11am or they’ll face additional charges – quite straight forward rules I hear you say. But the final rule and the most important rule is that there is a curfew, the doors to the hotel will be locked at midnight and that they are then to stay in their rooms and not come down after 1am.
The creeping unease that Harrison weaves into his prose is delightful and it had me thinking about the eeriness of the opening to American Werewolf in London (you know the scene with the pub at the beginning and the eerie walk along the path) small town horror and the dread and fear that our characters feel is palpable – it serves as a major device plot which Harrison weaves like a master of the genre.
The character work by Harrison is also deftly executed and we immediately fall in line with our protagonists and their assumptions. The uncanny is also richly woven into Harrison’s work and that bleeds into the character of Mrs. Heinze, it’s just stunning, his descriptions and they way he has rendered Mrs. Heinze really sets you on edge, it’s also all the subtle hints towards Mrs. Heinze character, detailed from others within the story that makes you break out in a cold sweat!
Well, all I can say is that quite possibly some of the rules are broken and we get a haunting and dread filled experience and one that I’ll never forget – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where my environment (where I was and the rain etc) has bled its way into my reading and I think this has something to do with how masterfully Harrison was able to portray this and capture the elements in the book.
Curfew is a creepy, haunting and most beguiling horror story from an exciting indie author who is making his mark in the genre; an author who I now eagerly anticipate their next release and an author that I will continue to champion. Small town horror never had it so good… whatever you do, make sure you don’t miss the Curfew!
Curfew is published by Demain Publishing and is available here.
Kev Harrison is a writer of dark fiction and English language teacher from England, living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. He has previously lived in various areas of the UK, as well as Turkey and Poland.
He is a staff writer for This is Horror and has had short fiction published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Lost Films, from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Below the Stairs: Tales From The Cellar from Things in the Well, Aphotic Realm Magazine’s ‘Fangs’ issue and ‘In Darkness Delight: Creatures of the Night from Corpus Press. He has also had short fiction featured on The Other Stories and Tales to Terrify podcasts.
His first single-author release, ‘Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See’ is available now in eBook and paperback (with additional content) from Demain Publishing, as part of their ‘Short Sharp Shocks’ range of titles.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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