Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY TONY JONES
“Terrifying secrets arise from an abandoned mine shaft
I often pick up free or heavily discounted eBook’s from the BookBub site, it might take me an age, but I get around to trying them all eventually. “Nogglz” by Tom Walsh finally rose to the top of the pile and made such a strong impression on me I wondered why I had never heard of it before? First published in 2015, I don’t recall this book ever being mentioned in the horror world or reviewed anywhere at all. Maybe it was just me who missed it. Either way, this is one exceptionally striking book which is well worth reading on Kindle Unlimited, or at the time of writing taking a £1.99 punt on Kindle.
“What the heck is a ‘Nogglz’?” is probably your first question, and it’s a good one, which I will answer a bit later. The whole novel is set over a bloody 24-hour period in a very remote part of the Colorado mountains in the small town of Canyon Bluff. Less than thirty people live in this isolated place which many years previously was a thriving coal-mining town. These thirty residents are all very elderly and refuse to leave their dying home town which no longer has a shop, school, or even working street lights. Set in the 1990s, Canyon Bluff is a superb setting for a horror novel, with the town dripping in atmosphere, sounds, decay and memories.
Apart from the police officers called to the town after the brutal murder of Sarah almost every character in this quirky novel is well over the age of sixty and that itself gives the novel a deliberately slow pace which worked perfectly. It was also very talky, old people do talk a lot, so that also worked cleverly well. Although the murders begin very quickly in the novel the locals do have some inkling of what is going on and are on some level prepared. Most are far from helpless, and heavily armed, for when things kick off. I really liked a lot of these grannies and grandads, many of whom went down swinging with all guns blazing.
Sarah lives in a house which she inherited from her dead brother and their father before that. In their basement there is a heavily fortified entrance to an old mine tunnel. When Sarah’s mutilated body is discovered the police realise that something has forced the mine barrier open, from the inside, something very strong and unbelievably nasty.
This is where things begin to get very interesting… Emily, is an Anthropology grad-student who is travelling to interview Sarah around the time of her death. She is writing a research paper on dying towns and her tutor has told to enquire about the “Nogglz” which is a local folk tale which parents have used to scare their kids for years, “If you don’t watch out the Nogglz will get you.” But as the body count increases we realise the “Nogglz” are very real and are connected to some dodgy business in the mines way back in the 1930s. Which everybody in the town knows about, but rarely talks about, and certainly not to strangers like Sarah.
I liked so many things about this odd book which I read speedily over two very enjoyably days and the sequences seen from the point of the view of the Nogglz were amongst my favourites. On one level they’re vicious, ultra-fast, killing machines but on another you did feel some sympathy for them. Their backstory was cleverly integrated into the plot and they also evolved as the story went on.
“Nogglz” made me think of a few other books, in the vaguest of senses, and this should be a compliment, firstly, Dean Koontz’s “Phantoms” for the location of nothing else, Albert Sanchez Pino’s “Cold Skin” for the creatures and Jeff Long’s “The Descent” for the underground cavernous locations. The Pino and Long novels are amongst my very favourites, so these are very cool comparisons and all three are come highly recommended.
The novel will also get you thinking about localised folklore and ghost stories and how they can be diluted down the generations. The “Nogglz” were originally a group of men locally known as “Naugel’s Boys” but when parents scared their kids with the old stories the youngsters were unsure of the spelling and it eventually morphed into “Nogglz”.
Although I doubt this is a book for everyone I wholeheartedly recommend it. I love books which are hard to categorise and “Nogglz” really fits the bill, part horror, thriller, and loaded with both monsters and grandads with guns. Excellent stuff.