No House Is Born Bad: Reading Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Kill Creek (2017)
Written by: Scott Thomas
Narrated by: Bernard Setaro Clark
Genre: Horror
Length: 15h, 45m (Audiobook)
Publisher: Audible Studios

Why I Chose This: At the end of 2017, I wrote a post about a few of the books on my To Be Read pile (bookshelf). Ever since I started editing professionally back in 2008, I’ve made less and less time to read for pleasure. Obviously, that’s entirely my fault, but every time I do make the time to read, I realize how much I miss it.

Most my reading now is done in the car, via audio book. (Seriously, one of the best inventions ever.) And over the course of the last couple weeks, I’ve been listening to one of the books on my list, Kill Creek, by Scott Thomas.

The premise:

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

Sounds cool, right? It is pretty cool. I love haunted house stories!

There are very minor spoilers ahead. I have tried to stay away from plot points, and I believe if you haven’t read it already, you won’t lose any of the excitement of the story by reading this post.


Discussion: The main character, Sam McGarver is a horror writer with a horrific secret. The author does an excellent job of describing the experience of being triggered by something that displaces a person in time, catapulting them back to the moment of their trauma. Sam experiences this sort of triggering many times through the book, each time giving the reader another small glimpse into what the inciting trauma might have been.

Sam is enticed into doing an interview on Halloween night inside an old house around which stories of hauntings have swirled for decades. But when he arrives in the town the day before, at the meeting place he’d been sent, he finds three other authors, including his idol, an old, stately gentleman named Sebastian Cole. The other two, bestselling Christian teen author Daniel Slaughter and strong, self-reliant TC Moore, the only woman in the group and arguably the physically strongest of the four.

A house stained by spilled blood cannot escape the harsh sentence passed by rumor.

Kill Creek has been nominated for a Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. I think, for the most part, it deserves to be on that ballot. There are a lot of really great things about this novel.

The characters are distinctive and well-drawn. Something I found interesting and a bit unique is that each horror writer represents a current subgenre of horror. Sam, our protagonist, represents the folksy, everyday-man horror. Sebastian is the epitome of classic, psychological horror. TC Moore writes graphic horror that rides the line between edgy and obscene. Daniel caters to teens by writing scary books, but then adds a moral to them — choosing good is always better than choosing evil.

This sets up a situation where we get to see the value of each subgenre through both the  eyes of those who write it, but also through the eyes of the others: their perceptions, misconceptions, and — sometimes — grudging respect. I found this to be a very engaging meta plot device.

The house on Kill Creek still stands. Empty. Quiet. But not forgotten. Not entirely.

Descriptions were done very well, also. As someone who struggles with description and has to squeeze every word out with blood (or so it feels like), I always admire an author who seems to be able to write lovely descriptions with ease. The Kansas prairie comes alive on the page, and the house feels as if it has its own soul as we spend more time with it.

Where I think this book is lacking is in the pacing. The beginning was slow, and it sometimes felt as if I were trudging along, looking for the fun bits. It’s not entirely unlikely that if I had been reading this physically, rather than listening to it, I may have put it down in the early chapters. Once we go to the meeting of the four authors, things went along at a merry pace. Until…

Rumors are its life; stories its breath.

When they leave the house and go home, everything slows down to a crawl again. From an editorial perspective, there is a lot in this “between” section that could have been cut or whittled down. It felt like a very long pause with repetitive information. I found it annoying.

But once we get back to the house (this is the extent of the spoilers in this post), everything ratchets up until we’re at a breakneck speed through the end of the book. This is where Thomas’s descriptions and the emotional connection to the characters that he’s created really pay off. Fear, tragedy, love, loss… these are all strong themes of this book from the first page to the last. And there’s a lovely twist to the ending that was a nice punch in the gut.

And when you have served its purpose, it will cast you aside. It will forget you.
And you, in turn, will be forgotten.

In conclusion: So… even with the pacing issues, I found this to be a really good read and I recommend Kill Creek to all my Spec Chic horror-reading friends!

2 Comments

  • Kelly McCarty February 8, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    This sounds interesting. I will have to see if my library has it.

    Reply
  • Lane Robins February 8, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve got this one on reserve at my library and now I’m more impatient than ever.

    Reply

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