cover image Shadow Hills

Shadow Hills

Sean Ford. Secret Acres, $23.95 (224p) ISBN 979-8-9855-8634-3

A fading town on the high plains of nowhere is swallowed by catastrophe in this trippy fright-show from Ford (Only Skin). In classic disaster narrative style, multiple story lines converge around an inexplicable threat. In one, diner waitress Anne is already weighed down by a dark family history (drinking, suicide, her twin sister Dana’s disappearance years before) when Cal, a crush from her past, pops up only to immediately fall into a crater in the earth. Meanwhile, a group of dead-end stoner kids wonder what happened to their missing friend Becky. And the police don’t know why townsfolk are showing up suddenly covered in a viscous black tar. Ford’s washed-out colors emphasize the landscape’s emptiness while a backdrop of oil rigs and unfinished tract homes conveys an au courant looming eeriness. Horror may be on trend, but Ford’s throwback draws from classic midnight movie tropes (including a doctor who tells the police “I’ve never seen anything like this”). Threaded throughout is a mysterious subplot about Dana’s possibly unreal adventures with a mute telekinetic boy known only as K. Though the characters never quite take on a life of their own, the environmental horror’s kinetic kick makes up the difference. For any literary horror fan who digs diving into a moody, mysterious world, this holds crossover appeal. Agent: Nicolas Grivel, the Nicolas Grivel Agency. (Oct.)