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.