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Disappearance at Devil's Rock: A Novel Hardcover – June 21, 2016
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From the Publisher
Paul Tremblay talks with Michael Koryta
Michael Koryta is the author of Rise The Dark (on sale 8/16/16).
MK: I absolutely loved Disappearance At Devil's Rock, and central to that was how beautifully shocking the final act was, featuring a revelation that was both stunning and logical. Did you work toward that ending from the start, or begin with the opening scenario and no known destination?
PT: Thank you, Michael. I started with a vague notion of a teenager mysteriously disappearing from a local state park and didn't know where it would go from there. I knew that I wanted to take a realistic approach to the teen's disappearance and introduce a sense of maybe-supernatural uncertainty, dread, and melancholy that would hopefully accumulate as the novel progressed. I then spent a month outlining, guessing, and eventually figuring out what may or may not have happened to Tommy Sanderson.
MK: The emotional ache of absence is present here in so many layers. Did that drain you at times, to go so deeply and honestly into the hearts of these characters?
PT: It was a bit emotionally tiring to be honest and by the end of it I was ready to write a happy, breezy comedy. Shh, don't tell my editor!
To help detach somewhat, I made sure that Tommy Sanderson was a totally different person in my head than any of my loved ones. I also focused not on what I would do in response to the scenarios in the novel, but on what these characters would do or say. That said, it was impossible to not put myself in Elizabeth Sanderson's shoes at times.
MK: Writing from a child's point of view is a tightrope act—and you nailed it. How did you go about achieving such authenticity with those voices?
PT: Besides being a parent of two children who are close to the ages of the kids involved in the novel, I've been a high school math teacher and basketball coach ever since graduate school. I'm generally awash in teen-speak. I pay close attention to what they say and how they say it, the slang and sayings that cycle in and out of style. For the writer-me, teaching is an everyday lesson in teen voices and a window to their emotional lives, and even how and what they might be thinking/hiding even when they're not saying much.
Also, I still feel like a big kid most of the time. I've always lived according to the seasonal cycles of the school calendar: the joy of summer and depression of September. Being permanently fixed in that kid schedule has warped my brain and I wouldn't have it any other way.
MK: The supernatural is presented here as possibility, an uncertainty, a debate, and individual readers will land in different places with it. I love that, but I wondered if you felt pulled at times to take it more directly toward that or to lean farther back from it? It's a fantastic, haunting result.
PT: I love how you describe the supernatural as possibility. Maybe the supernatural is the stuff in the cracks of things, existing in the in-between places. I try to approach the supernatural element skeptically or realistically, meaning that if a supernatural event were to intrude in our real lives, I don't think it would be obvious or instantly recognizable, and it certainly wouldn't be easy to explain, and we'd be hesitant to believe it happened. That doesn't mean it isn’t there though, yeah? With both A Head Full Of Ghosts (my last novel) and Disappearance At Devil's Rock, I wanted to make the most overtly horrific parts of the books the real parts, the "this-could-really-happen" parts, and have what lingers or haunts the reader afterward to be those ambiguities and possibilities.
“Crackling with dark energy and postmodern wit...[this] superb novel evokes the very best in the tradition—from Shirley Jackson to Mark Z. Danielewski and Marisha Pessl—while also feeling fresh and utterly new. Deeply funny and intensely terrifying, it’s a sensory rollercoaster and not to be missed.” (Megan Abbott, author of The Fever and Dare Me)
“Paul Tremblay is an astonishingly talented writer, but even better, he’s twisted, and fun. A Head Full of Ghosts is mind-bending—scary, sad, sweet, funny, sick. ... . Terrifying, hilarious, smart, and satisfying.” (Stewart O'Nan, author of The Speed Queen, The Night Country, and A Prayer for the Dying)
“Tremblay expertly ratchets up the suspense until the tension is almost at its breaking point.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“[B]rilliantly creepy.” (Library Journal)
“The novel is stylishly written and well-conceived.” (Booklist)
“Gripping and truly scary, this book feels of the moment in a way few thrillers do.” (B&N Reads)
“[A] scary story, indeed.” (BookPage)
“A mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising disturbing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.” (Buzzfeed)
“…progressively gripping and suspenseful — (Tremblay’s) ultimate, bloodcurdling revelation is as sickeningly satisfying as it is masterful.” (NPR Books)
“[A] creepy, interesting read, great for horror fans.” (SFRevu)
From the Back Cover
A family is shaken to its core after the mysterious disappearance of a teenage boy in this eerie tale from the author of A Head Full of Ghosts
“A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare,” raved Stephen King about Paul Tremblay’s previous novel, which received widespread critical acclaim. Now Tremblay returns with another disturbing tale just as powerful and unsettling.
Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her thirteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a nearby state park.
The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her eleven-year-old daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend Tommy’s disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration. Neither the state nor local police have uncovered any leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were the last to see Tommy before he vanished, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out at a landmark they have renamed Devil’s Rock.
Living in an all-too-real nightmare, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a wraithlike apparition of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadowy figure peering through their windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journals begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; the coming zombie “pocketclips”; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connected them all.
As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more ominous and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night at Devil’s Rock.
Tremblay deftly blends literary fiction, psychological suspense, and supernatural horror into an absorbing tale that illuminates a parent’s darkest fears . . . and an adolescent’s darkest secrets. Eerie, thought-provoking, and soul-shattering, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock will haunt you long after Tommy’s final journal entry is read.
Top customer reviews
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Disappearance at Devil's Rock veers off into darker, more disturbing, less fantastical territory. The setting is a place where I've spent a lot of time. I grew up in Easton, MA (called Ames in Tremblay's book) and live here still. Borderland State Park is in Easton, MA, and the author uses the real name of the park, some mostly authentic physical features of the park and its surrounding streets. Consequently, the story haunts me more acutely than it might haunt most readers. Tremblay sends several of the characters along the Pond Trail and I walk that same trail several times a week. His characters also tread along the border of natural and supernatural landscapes. At least three characters cross that border. Two of them cross it and fall down a rabbit hole, only it's a crack in a boulder, not a rabbit hole.
I would give the book five stars, but a lot of the major events and the explanations for them are revealed through the dialogue and diaries of characters whose vocabularies and sentence length and structure lack variety. The author did this deliberately because this is how the teenage characters really communicate, but it slowed down my "page turning" a bit. Most of the book is brilliant and frightening, not because zombies or ghosts are bouncing out of their hiding places after midnight, though. The most frightening concept Tremblay explores is the way people (many people, almost anyone) can face a situation and make the absolute worst decision possible, then act on it whole heartedly. Unfortunately it happens all the time and affects so many lives profoundly. There's no going back after you fall down the crack in that boulder.
Anyway. This book is more self-assured. It's an effortless read; you're never halted by language or writer's tricks (things that happen to me often in literary horror, as if some authors need to prove they are above the genre). This book is confident in its telling and knows what it wants to do. A standout in a year of great horror novels.
The third act made up for the sagging middle. Like in A Head Full of Ghosts, Tremblay has an ability to make a tragedy feel satisfying. He doesn't shy away from giving the reader a realistic ending, and he does it in such a way that I don't feel like it would upset a reader on either side of the fence--ones who only enjoy happy endings or ones who only enjoy darker ones. Even though much of the book was a bit of a slog, the ending made the journey worth it.
He's winking at you, showing you hand puppets while bleeding you dry... he's showing you a path that gets darker and darker, holding your hand all the while, but the flesh, you realize, is too cold... and that realization, once you come upon it, is a thrill.