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on October 26, 2006
THE PINES

Robert Dunbar

Delirium Books (2006)

$50.00

(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.

--Nickolas Cook.
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VINE VOICEon January 7, 2007
If you like your scare-fare fast and heart-pounding, take a detour into THE PINES, where the legendary monster, the Jersey Devil, hunts for prey in the dark and mysterious Pine Barrens of New Jersey. For some reason, campers are drawn to blighted netherworld of the Pineys--as the region is called by the locals--and their camping trips don't always end pleasantly. Grisly deaths occur regularly in the weird woodlands, deaths that the backwater Piney dwellers ascribe to the beast, the Jersey Devil. Young Matthew, a strange little boy, and his mother Althena live out in those woods, and when Althena's good-for-nothing boyfriend--who also happens to be a police sheriff--is murdered, Althena joins with her boyfriend's partner to help solve the case. The killer might be wild dogs, it might be a serial killer. Or it might be something else. This is a finely wrought and engaging horror thriller that takes the reader into the Pine Barrens for a roller coaster horror experience that is structured around a legendary beast that many people--including the author--believe truly exists. When you've finished reading this novel, TombRats, I'll bet you'll be a believer, too!
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on June 13, 2004
This horror novel has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years. In it, Robert Dunbar tackles the legend of the Jersey Devil -- the supposedly satanic half-man, half-beast that has terrorized residents of southern New Jersey since the 18th century. Dunbar takes this legend, along with its Pine-Barrens setting, and runs with it. The story revolves around a widowed young woman, her troubled son, her co-workers in a rural ambulance unit, and her cop boyfriend. I don't want to give away anything, but I will say that Dunbar's re-working of the old legend is very imaginative and at times truly scary. For example, he has a scene involving several young couples camping in the Pine Barrens that does a terrific job of playing on fears that anyone who has ever been alone in the woods at night has had.

UPDATE: Don't be frightened away by the handfull of negative reviews posted here. This book is not hard to follow, but the care with which it is constructed may not be apparent on first reading. I appreciated it even more the second time through.
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on April 27, 2012
When I read the beginning of this book, I was initially frustrated by the number of characters and the uncertainty about where the story was going. However, as I got into it, I became more and more impressed by the intricately designed pastiche of horror vignettes that narrow into a singular story. The scenes are like a quilt of nightmares sewn together and the dark, backwoods characters will linger with you after you put it down. Some reviewers complain about the movie-like scenes. In a B-movie by a half-rate director, they might be cheesey, but in the hands of a horror master, they'd have you on the edge of your seat. I won't ever hear about the Jersey Devil again without thinking of The Pines. If you like to wrap yourself in rich, dark prose and feel a little uncomfortable (nothing sparkly here), you will enjoy this story.
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on December 5, 2012
Dunbar takes the slow route to get to his horror and i appreciate it! the writing is bleak, cold-eyed yet haunting, evocative - a kind of southern gothic set in the new jersey pine barrens. most characters are portrayed as human insects of three varieties - predatory, on a sad downward spiral, or both. when positive human emotions and interactions come to the forefront, its almost as if a great battle has been won to allow those rays of humanity their brief moments... the smallest positive gestures become almost profound when set against a backdrop of such unrelenting darkness. the supernatural element is handled with a very careful touch. some great, scary set pieces, particularly the trailer attack and the climax. of course the real horrors in this novel are the living conditions portrayed and the basic (and nauseating) callowness of most of the characters. overall this is an excellent and well-written horror novel with none of the cheesiness of other Leisure titles and i'm surprised it's not better known. perhaps this is due to the slowly unwinding narrative; although i found it to be quite gripping, the reader interested in a visceral rollercoaster will no doubt grow impatient. for me, the slow unwinding is part of what sets this novel firmly in the literary horror tradition - the richness of the language and the murkiness of what is exactly occurring made the experience a pleasantly challenging one. Dunbar clearly knows how to write traditional, "modern" horror (as presented during the opening sequence and, most effectively, in the disturbing bits involving a a doomed camping trip)... and just as clearly he has set his sights higher.
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on December 21, 2013
I enjoyed The Pines. I sure wouldn't want to work on an ambulance there. I remember Robert from back in the Deep Outside Magazine days when we both had stories published there. The way the people lived in the pines reminded me of the novel Tobacco Road, where you shake your head and say, "No one lives like this," as you know in reality there are inbred people who live like the characters in the novel. The only drawback I felt was that I had trouble following some of the characters and knowing who they were. But that's just me when I deal with a large cast of characters. Someone else may not have that problem. Great writing, and I for sure will never go into the Pines if I'm ever in Jersey.
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on December 7, 2012
After reading The Pines, I think I've found my new favorite horror author. It takes a careful blend of characterization, plot, gore, and creepiness to keep me enthralled, and in his new novel, The Pines, Robert Dunbar brings his readers all that and much more.

The fact that the Jersey Devil is an actual local legend in southern New Jersey--and it's allegedly been seen by many people--makes The Pines even more eerie, foreboding, and just plain scary. The implausible becomes plausible, sending chills down your spine, the coldness creeping into your bones as you read.

This story will scare the heck out of you. Mr. Dunbar brings The Pines to life with chilling clarity, causing you to imagine being lost in the woods with the certainty that you're not alone in the dark--and that what's out there is intelligent but probably not human.

While I was reading, a rock rolled down the bank nearby and hit my house, and I shrieked in fright, nearly throwing the book across the room. Few horror novels have the power to scare the dickens--let alone a reaction--out of me. But The Pines did just that. Do I believe that the Jersey Devil exists? Well, let's just say that you won't find me caught in the Pine Barrens after dark.

With Halloween right around the corner, I can't think of a better read for the holiday. Get your copy of The Pines ASAP. I wouldn't miss it for all the Halloween candy in the universe.
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on November 29, 2012
I saw THE PINES first advertised in the 90's, and was tempted to buy it, but never got around to it. More recently, I did buy and read it with great relish and no small amount of trembling. I also found out it was just as well I waited and got Dunbar's original version, rather than the volume from Leisure which was edited with a heavy hand and no artistic sense --I believe without the author's consent. It's rare when you find yourself existing in the grip of a story, but this always happens to me with Dunbar's works. I was almost wiping perspiration off my forehead, living in the heat of the summer in the backwoods.

The characters come alive, and with this, the mounting fear of some horrible evil dwelling in the pines. Shades of "Deliverance" too, among some of the stoic residents. I won't spoil the story or the ending by describing it. I can only tell you this book is a keeper. You don't have to be a horror buff to appreciate THE PINES as fine dark literature. -Marge Simon
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on September 19, 2013
You might think you've figured out "who done it" (or, rather, who's doing it!) at different times, but you're wrong. I have to wonder what the current-day residents of the Pines think about a book like this because it doesn't present ANYBODY in a good light but, if you can stand characters fashioned after an old stereotype and stop wanting to reach into the book and shake some sense into a few people (in this case, that's a GOOD thing!) plus pretty much non-stop tension, you'll probably really like this book. While I didn't watch Snooki, et al, in the TV program Jersey Shore, I have the feeling those characters are just an update of the folks in THE PINES. The book is sort of like "Who Goes There," basis for THE THING movies, in that you'll really wonder "Who goes there?" SPOOKY!
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on August 27, 2015
The overall story premise based on local legends held promise; however, the writing makes this book difficult to follow and feel connected to the characters. As some other reviewers have suggested, there were simply too many descriptive adjectives and broken sentences. I found myself rereading many lines to try and understand what was going on. The story and character development felt loose for over half of the book which again made it difficult to connect to the book and want to continue reading. I did finish the book although I considered stopping near the halfway point. On the plus side the story did tighten over the last 75 pages or so and was a little more focused. However that may not be enough for me to pursue the next book, 'The Shore'.
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