Ginger Nuts of Horror
Chad A. Clark's Winter Holiday is the latest entry in the excellent Dark Minds novella series. Since the debut publication of Benedict Jones' Slaughter Beach, it has never failed to provide an entertaining and at times thought-provoking reading experience from such luminaries as Rich Hawkins, Gary Fry, Laura Mauro, the Ben above Jones and now Dark Minds Press goes international with their latest release from Iowa's very own master of horror Chad A. Clark.
Winter Holiday has a simple premise; world-famous author has an annual tradition of taking time away from it all in a holiday home deep in the winter wilderness. Cut off from all forms of distraction Peter goes there to detox, but this year something is waiting for him, something that wants to rend him limb from limb.
Winter Holiday is an explosive novella that wastes no time in getting to the heart of the action. This rip-roaring man versus monster tale strips away almost all characterisation and backstory to allow the action and sense of adventure to take centre stage. Chad doesn't waste time creating screeds of backstory or subtle character nuances, which in a novella length story can get in the way of the story developing. Instead Chad presents us with Peter, with just enough flesh to hang the tale onto and a couple of incidental characters from which to give the story some sense of reality, to focus on the struggle between author and beast.
When a writer strips so much away from a story there is a risk that the story doesn't ring true, but Chad's handling of the action and his ability to pile on the tension more than compensates for this. Winter Holiday is a deeply satisfying adventure horror tale filled with exciting set pieces, heart-stopping pearls and enough blood and offal covered snow to make this another winner from Dark Minds Press.
My only issue with the book is the rather abrupt ending; the story would have benefited from an extension of why and how the monster came to be, and just who the mysterious next-door neighbour was. I can see where Chad was trying to go with these points, and forgive the vagueness of this part of the review as it is best if you discover these things for yourself, and they almost work perfectly, but they did feel a little bit underdeveloped. However, as a whole Winter Holiday delivers everything it sets out to do, and who knows maybe we will fortunate to have further adventures of Peter if we do this reviewer will most certainly be picking up a copy based on the strength of this chilling novella.