Black’s Creek – Sam Millar

Black's CreekBlack’s Creek is a sweaty slice of dark Americana, part crime novel, part coming-of-age tale, from Belfast writer Sam Millar.

The blurb will tell you:

When young Joey Maxwell drowns himself in Jackson’s Lake, near the small town of Black’s Creek in upstate New York, everyone knows who is responsible – an outsider who molested Joey in the woods. The police investigation seems to be getting nowhere, and three teenage boys decide to take justice into their own hands.

So basically, Black’s Creek is told from the point-of-view of Tommy, an adolescent boy in a small town in upstate New York. He and his friends Brent and Horseshoe make a blood oath to exact revenge on the man responsible for their friend’s death.

It’s a book with an interesting set-up and, just like Brent’s most-excellent Milf Mom, it’s all provocative tease. The narrative slips and slides and never quite bounds off in the direction you think it’s going to. Sinister elements you think will have huge repercussions fizzle and barking small town characters make odd cameos – honestly, some of these people would make you pack up and rent a room in Arkham.

The main event, which threatens to explode at any moment, like Tommy’s haywire teenage hormones, is saved till late in the proceedings. It maybe pulls its punches a little bit, but it’s followed by a neat little sting in the tale.

Black’s Creek, both the locale and the story, has its fair share of dark places, which lurk, for the most part, off the page. But it’s also got a lot of heart, as Tommy supports his disintegrating father, the local sheriff. Black’s Creek, as much as anything, is about atmosphere and cloying memory. The prose has a delirious cartoon brashness about it, and is packed full of bubblegum nostalgia. Tommy and his friends, surrounded by real horrors, find their place in the world by talking endlessly about comics and superheroes and monsters.

Black’s Creek is gothic noir, a small town fever dream in the vein of Jim Thompson, and in this world of cookie-cutter procedurals, that can never be a bad thing.

Thanks ever-so to Brandon Books for the review copy. Sam Millar is a writer with a fascinating background and I’m glad to say he’ll be giving us the lowdown on Black’s Creek and his writing process very soon, so look out for that.

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