Click here to buy it now: Black Fire
Written by: James Kidman
Published by: Cemetery Dance
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
I obtained Black Fire, by James Kidman, after requesting a review copy from Cemetery Dance, and was eager to get through it, expecting to read some of the same old stuff, but looking forward to doing my first review of a book that I did not buy myself. What I read, made me feel guilty for not having paid for the book; it was that good.
Black Fire follows Eddie Farris back and forth between his present days and a past he can not escape, but wishes he could. The prose is split between first person accounts of the day known to Eddie as The Showdown—written while he was still in a mental institution—a third person account of events from the same day and a third person narrative following Eddie’s life seven years ago the Showdown. Almost every chapter is a leap through time, chronicling events that have direct bearing on things that are happening in Eddie’s present. Almost every chapter end with a cliffhanger that is sure to leave the reader hungry for more.
Although it starts off slow, the pace and the writing are well done and Kidman does a great job setting up Eddie’s life in the present, just to contrast it with the trauma of the past. He’s the town—Black Hills—outcast, shunned and vilified by the populace for the events that took place during the Showdown. He lives alone; he has no friends, except the elderly ticket seller in the local movie theater and the owner—Mattie—of the book store in which he works. Children sing taunting songs about him, someone constantly paints obscenities on his bedroom window while he sleeps, and no matter what he does, he can’t escape the stigma of his family’s violent past.
The first of many twists and baits thrown at the reader begins when Rachel, Eddie’s true love and one-time girlfriend, returns to town with a young boy who she claims to be his son. She also claims that someone is chasing her and trying to kill her, and that someone is Eddie’s father Michael, believed dead seven years during the Showdown. She wants his help to find and stop him. Eddie, of course, agrees, though he doesn’t believe that his father is alive. Why? Because, Eddie killed him.
But when people start dying and cats are nailed to doors, Eddie himself begins to believe that his father might have survived the Showdown. Add to that, the appearance of Lehcar, an enigmatic figment of Eddie’s imagination that visits him in his nightmares, promising that he will turn out to be just like his father, and Eddie—and the reader—is on a constant rollercoaster ride of nerves and adrenaline.
The flashbacks centers on Eddie at seventeen, living with his parents and openly in love with Rachel. All that changes when his father snaps at last, and Eddie, fearing his life at stake, finally stands up to the abuse he’d been suffering through for years. The result is the Showdown, an all night, heart stopping, gut churning, white knuckle chase that leaves many people in Eddie’s life dead and more than one life in ruins.
The story mostly focuses on Eddie and little else, but with a character this strong and a plot this interesting, it hardly needed anyone else. The underlining mystery of this story is hidden in plain sight, but the way the story jumped from the present day to the past in short intervals and the well written prose makes it so that you don’t catch on until the very end—at least I didn’t.
Overall, I loved this book, and will be looking forward to anything James Kidman writes in the future. It was a fun, albeit sometimes overly gruesome ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. I also have to commend Kidman on his daring decision to break away from the norm of modern day endings. It was bold, it was disturbing, but it was—forgive the pun—novel
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