Sunday, September 6, 2009

"His Father's Son" by Bentley Little

I have been waiting for Bentley Little’s latest – His Father’s Son – for months. I love Bentley Little, I have a collection of some of his rarer works, including the infamous Murmurous Haunts (I was lucky enough to score a signed copy a while back), a couple of ARC’s of his earlier books, a couple of signed hardcover copies of his books, and even an early promotional copy of The Store that is actually printed on standard 8 ½” x 11” copy paper, complete with a cover and promo letter from the publisher/publicist. So, to say that I am merely a fan is a bit of an understatement. I liked the guy before he was cool. I have issues of The Horror Show Magazine (and several others) from the 1980’s, having trolled for them on Ebay because he contributed to them.

His Father’s Son is the story of your middle aged everyman, Steve Nye. He is dealing with a situation that many of us have or will have to face during the course of our lives – the mental and physical deterioration of a parent. In Steve’s case, his father just snaps one day, physically assaulting his mother. The attack is completely out of character, and Steve’s father is diagnosed as suffering from a degenerative form of dementia and is committed to a psychiatric facility.

During one of Steve’s visits, his father appears to be perfectly lucid. It is during this period of lucidity that he says the words “I killed her.”

After hearing what he perceives as his father’s confession, Steve begins an investigation into his father’s past that makes him question everything he has ever known about his father, his family and himself.

The way this book is written, I really can’t say much more about the plot without being a spoiler.

There are dozens of little reasons that I have become such an avid Little fan. However, there have always been three big ones that have never varied or wavered. 3) He is among the most prolific writers I have ever read. It is a delight to troll around for obscure magazines and anthologies that he has contributed unique short stories to. You always find something different, but it always has a distinct Bentley Little flavor. 2) His flair for the surreal. Regardless of the specific plot or subject matter in a given book or story, you can count on Little to warp the very fabric of reality. All of his work has a certain level of wrongness to it, which is what makes it such great horror. 1) The man is deals in real, unapologetic horror. Nothing is taboo or off limits.

With all of the above being said, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with His Father’s Son. Maybe I have read too much of his stuff, because I kept thinking of how this story line should have gone down as I read. Unfortunately, it was fairly predictable (in my opinion), and it lacked a lot of both the surrealism and the depth of the majority of Little’s previous novels. His short stories even. I had a very hard time getting into the book, which is almost unheard of for me, although after the first few chapters it did hold my attention fairly consistently.

Unfortunately, I was left feeling shortchanged. I kept waiting for something to happen, and it never really did. There were instances of short stories being intertwined throughout the novel (Steve Nye happens to be a writer), and it was only throughout these several short chapters that I was able to really feel Little’s true nature leech into the story. It was almost as if this book was thought up by a publisher or something, and the integrated short stories were Little’s metaphorical middle finger.

All in all, the book was a big letdown for me. I have read a lot of criticism of Little’s work, and it always contains suggestions that would make his writing more mainstream and less out of the box and controversial. Frankly, I am a Little fan because of the blatant sex and violence and carnage that his books are (unapologetically) crammed with. I feel as though this was a pandering release, put out there to placate the whiners. I hope that his next book is a return to his surreal and totally unique flavor of storytelling, written for his fans - not everybody else. Three stars.


  1. Mary D
    zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

    We are huge Little fans at my house, and your review was quite good. But, I'm with you - it doesn't sound like the Bentley Little story that I am familiar with. Sounds kinda disappointing.

    You are SO lucky to have Mumurous Haunts :) lol

  2. I was so bummed out :(

    I was hoping for something like Dominion or The University, and it was more like Death Instinct (you know, the one that was released under the name Phillip Emmons and then rereleased under his real name). I hope his next one is better.

    Would you believe that I got my copy of Murmurous Haunts in a bulk lot of Little's books on ebay, I paid like $2 a book. Then it showed up and it was a signed and numbered copy. That was a great day :)

  3. I've yet to read Little's work, though I have one of his titles sitting on my TBR pile. A shame this one missed the mark for you. It sure sounds like a downer.

  4. Your review is spot-on; the book does feel like a concession to complaining, conservative fools.

    I was a big fan of 'Horror Show', too.

  5. Would you believe that I got my copy of Murmurous Haunts in a bulk lot of Little's books on ebay, I paid like $2 a book. Then it showed up and it was a signed and numbered copy. That was a great day :)
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  7. Would you believe that I got my copy of Murmurous Haunts in a bulk lot of Little's books on ebay, I paid like $2 a book. Then it showed up and it was a signed and numbered copy. That was a great day :)
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  9. Que les vaya tela de bien... ya lo verás. Son las cosas de la vida, son las cosas del quererrrrrrrrrrrrr....
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  10. I've had the chance to read a couple of Richard Laymon novels, Glory Bus and Bite, and enjoyed both of them. I've seen this one sitting on store shelves for a couple of months or so, and thus far have resisted picking it up--my TBR pile is huge. But, for a chance at a free copy, I'll throw my name in the hat.
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  11. It's easier said than done, but I don't think writers have anything to be worried about when someone reacts to a piece of work with criticism - as long as it's constructive and the motive is improvement. The process forces us to ask why we have done certain things. Often the criticism will simply highlight something we ourselves had already put a question mark over. Sometimes it will show up a need to be clearer. Also, it's good to remember that the criticism is not about us, it's simply about something we produced - just one of the many things we might go on to produce. There's no need to take this criticism personally. I know, it's easier said than done!
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