by Rick Hautala
Published by: PS Publishing, 2009.
Its a long time since I read any Rick Hautala, it was probably back in the late nineties with The Mountain King. I recall his writing being tight and pacy and his books having enough gore to satisfy. In short his writing was typical of the late 80’s-90’s horror boom but since then I have lost touch with his work. I was excited therefore to read his latest novella Reunion.
Reunion tells the story of Jackie Stone and Chris Hooper a couple of young boys in the town of Rockport. Summer holidays are nearly ending and as a final fling the boy’s decide to sneak into town for the night. They are hoping to gate crash a High School Reunion being attended by married couple John and Maggie, the lure of sneaking a few burgers from the barbecue is enough to lead the boys astray.
The journey into town involves a trip down a dangerous road and Jackie (a natural worrier) and Chris (a far more reckless individual) set off with some trepidation. At the same time John and Maggie’s journey to the reunion seems to be fraught with problems but John is determined to go it “is a matter of life or death”.
And so the story progresses as the characters lives interweave to reach a dramatic and moving conclusion. My first thoughts on reading Reunion were that this must be the work of a different Rick Hautala. There was none of the gore, none of the monsters, instead there was an emotional intensity of a far deeper and more satisfying kind. F.Paul Wilson in his afterword points out that Reunion is a work of great melancholy and I would agree.
The feeling that the endless summer of youth is in fact reaching a conclusion, that the freedom and carefree world of young boys is about to be lost pervades the book with a rich intensity. The only comparison I can draw on is the power of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine which has a similar tone. It’s a tone that seems to intensify with the readers age as the yearning for those nostalgic summer days increases. Given that Dandelion Wine is one of my favourite books then any book which aims for that standard is a huge success for me, when a book like Reunion not only aims for that standard but reaches it then we are in a whole new territory.
Rick Hautala has produced a deeply moving piece of work and has shown how horror has moved on in the last few years both thematically but also in the standard of the writing. I’m a fan of the ghost train full of monsters and gore as much as the next man but books like Reunion show that in the hands of a skillful writer, a few characters and a lot of emotion and the ride can be equally intense. Highly recommended. You can read more about Rick Hautala at his website here or order the book from PS Publishing here.
Rating 5 out of 5