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A must read for genre fans!
on October 26, 2006
Delirium Books (2006)
(Note: This is the author's unabridged edition of the original Leisure edition from 1989)
The end of the 80s saw the implosion of horror as a power in the market place, with the exception of the heavy hitters, like King, Rice, and Koontz. At one point in 1989 there were no less than 45 new horror titles in less than a month from various publishers and imprints hitting the sagging shelves. There were copycats of copycats, and the market was glutted with the bad to worse that horror fiction had to offer.
One book that made it under the closing flap of the 'death of horror' pronouncement from the all-knowing gurus of NYC Publisher's Row was Robert Dunbar's THE PINES (1989 Leisure). It's slow, tense buildup of how four people come together on a dark and windblown night to confront the terror known as The Jersey Devil. Sounds like a simple enough setup, right? Well, yes and no, because Dunbar did it with such power that it defied its own simplicity. And even during this final desperate onslaught of horror regurgitation, THE PINES caused many to sit up and take notice. The book was dark, bleak, and maybe one of the twenty best books to come out of that explosive period in horror fiction.
But it wasn't without its flaws.
Pages of scenes had been cut, and characters subtracted, for the sake of word count.
Now Dunbar, with the fine folks at Delirium Books, has done what he's always wanted to do with THE PINES: He's given us the book as it was originally intended in all its profundity. The missing pages have been added back in; storylines have been properly ripened for the book's final chapters.
Simply put, THE PINES is the demented lovechild of Faulkner and King.
With its tableau of honest characters, full of depth, flaws, and the need for redemption, an unswerving buildup of terror that defies logic, and Dunbar's deft descriptive powers that makes the New Jersey Pine Barrens come to life, this is the way great horror should be written. There is an underlying Southern Gothic sensibility to Dunbar's horror, one that speaks volumes about the nature of violence, and the casual way in which it ensnares good people and warps them. There are no missteps in THE PINES. The editing is managed with such masterly skill that the author is able to pull together divergent storylines into a heady brew, and by book's end one feels the sweat and terror dripping from the page. I was in awe at how much storytelling he was able to do in short bursts, and how he was able to make you feel the grit and despair of the people who call The Pine Barrens home, The Pineys.
For those who do not know, there's a reason why THE PINES comes off with such power. Robert Dunbar is one of the world's leading authorities on the legend of The Jersey Devil. He's appeared in dozens of cable documentaries and done interviews for several magazines on the subject. His background in the field of amateur cryptozoology and Jersey mythos makes him uniquely suited to give the story a backbone of believability, and he holds nothing back in this unabridged version. So for those of you who have read the original version, take that and times ten with this Delirium Books edition.
Word is Dunbar has a sequel coming down the pike: THE SHORES, also from Delirium Books. And I hear it is even more horrifying than THE PINES.
And let me give a quick kudos to the cover artist, Mike Bohatch, for he has truly captured the black and uneasy sense of THE PINES story with his artwork. I would buy a framed print of that cover, folks. Very nice, indeed, Mike. Good job.