17 February 2010

The Night of the Hunter

John Harper lives with a dark secret that he dare not reveal to anyone. He swore to his father, on the day that the old man was arrested for bank robbery and murder, that he would never tell anyone about the location of the stolen money. Not the police, not his distraught mother, no one. Only nine-year old John and his five-year old sister Pearl know. But then a charming preacher named Harry Powell strolls into the John's Depression-era Ohio town and claims that he was his father's chaplain in prison. Everyone else in town is taken by the seemingly kind and moral Powell, including John's mother whom Powell eventually marries, but John is not fooled. He knows "The Preacher," as Powell is called, is up to no good. (John is the only one who figures out that there's just something remotely creepy about a dude with the words "Love" and "Hate" tattooed on his knuckles...) A sinister game of cat and mouse develops between the precocious youngster and his ruthless stepfather as The Preacher attempts to make John talk, a game of cat and mouse that ultimately sends John and his sister on a terrifying race for their lives to escape Powell.

I love a good thriller and have been meaning to read the suspense classic The Night of the Hunter for several years now. I came across it in a suspense novel collection at my local bookstore late last year and couldn't resist buying it...and several other books. My anticipation was well worth it - this book is excellent! For starters, this is a very well-written book. It's written in third person but with a period dialect. The accent is not overdone and it greatly adds to the storytelling feel. I felt like I was listening to my grandpa relay a story about his childhood while reading this. (Not that his childhood was similar, though he does have some pretty crazy stories to tell...) Author David Grubb also creates an authentic Depression-era setting without beating the reader over the head with tons of description. He conveys a lot in his sparsely eloquent narration.

More importantly, though, this book is a genuine page turner! It's a relatively short novel, so it's a quick read to start with, but the pacing is superb. Grubb builds up to the exciting climax with so many twists and turns, but it never feels like he's being gratuitous with cheap tricks. The denouement, after the climax, goes on a few pages too long, to me, but that's after all of the action is over, so it's not a big deal.

The highlight of this book to me was The Preacher. Oh. My. God. I haven't encountered a literary villain this despicable in a loooooooong time. Powell is genuinely scary, what with his mind games and the sterling facade he puts on for everyone else. (In fact, I couldn't sleep after reading this book and made a complete fool out of myself that night, because I mistook some balloons for Powell at 3am. I thought The Preacher had come to "get" me. In my defense, I can't see very well and have a vivid imagination...) Powell is actually based on a real murderer - Harry Powers, who was known as "The West Virginia Bluebeard". I was not aware of that until I read this book. I am more familiar with the movie version of this movie, in which the Preacher is played by Robert Mitchum, so I had Mitchum's face and voice in my head when I was reading this book. Perhaps that made it more scary, but it's pretty intense to begin with.

The Night of the Hunter is a superb thriller. This book takes a relatively simple tale (evil stepfather vs. innocent children) and makes it far more compelling than many more complex plots. If you're looking for a good psychological thriller, this book will do the trick.


Next Week: Um...something possibly historical. Like Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals or Robert Graves' I, Claudius. I have no idea...

Announcements: I have a few announcements this week. *clears throat, stands on strategically-placed box for the height-deprived, and employs loudspeaker*

I have decided to start a new monthly series: "The Unblogged Chronicles". Basically, I am going to do a post each month (probably the last weekend of each month) in which I post mini reviews about all of the books I read that month and didn't blog about. Both Penguins and Scott have asked me recently if I blog on books I dislike. The answer: nope. For various reasons, I don't feel comfortable devoting a whole review to a book I don't recommend. However, I thought about it and decided that there are enough books I don't write about that are good and deserve to be mentioned and it couldn't hurt to mention when I don't recommend a book (and my nefarious reasons why), so I am looking forward to trying this new series, which will start this weekend. This month you guys will get a double dose, because it will cover both January and February. Yeehaw!

Also, you may be seeing more lists in general for the next couple of months. Have I abandoned reading? God forbid! Am I becoming lazy? I wish... You see I am going to be working as a student editor on my college's fiction magazine. *dies and goes to heaven* I am super excited about that, but it may cut into my blogging time. *undies and comes back to Earth* I will try my best to post something every week, but it may not be a review. I have several ideas for posts, so hopefully I won't bore you anymore than usual. (Likewise, if I drop off of the face off the Internet for a few days, don't fear. I will just be up to my eyeballs pouring over submissions, not abduced by intergalactic aliens. And if I am abducted by aliens, well, then, well, we won't go there...)

Finally, I have a fun announcement and challenge for you. *rubs hands together* My friend Penguins recently blogged about a challenge in which you are supposed to answer a series of questions using the titles of songs performed by your favorite band. I am a rabid, obnoxious, obsessed megafan of the most awesome, excellent, amazing acidtripping band in history. That would be Pink Floyd, in case you were wondering. I go around listening to, quoting, and reciting random trivia about them constantly (What? Why are you looking at me like that? No! Don't flee from me with a look of terror on your face! WHY ARE YOU RUNNING AWAY?! I am not going to attack you with my love of Pink Floyd. Why, I am as sane as Syd Barrett. :D) I did my list (though I had to be weaselly and answer a question falsely with the true answer implied. Don't judge me!) and decided to post it as a sidebar on my blog, entitled "My Life...According To Pink Floyd". It is at the bottom, right under the interview that I most certainly did not conduct with myself. *cough* Have fun laughing at my stupidity, try your own version with your own favorite band (can't be Pink Floyd), and check out Penguins' excellent blog while you're at it. Thanks, Penguins! :) *continues scattering psychedelic rock and penguin pixie dust across blog*

Sorry for the length of this. If you read it all, you deserve a cookie. And if you caught the two Pink Floyd references I slipped in there, then you can eat your pudding before you eat your meat. *hands chocolate chip cookies out*


  1. So many new things happening! Very cool. :D Write on!
    (And the My Life According to Pink Floyd was awesome!)

  2. Thanks! I was quite proud of My Life According to Pink Floyd. (I listened to them today to celebrate. And realized that my version of The Wall has been played so many times, I need a new one...) Glad you like the changes, Scott! :)

    Don't forget your cookie. :D

  3. Your Life According to Pink Floyd is amazing. Really well done. And thank you for all that praise and advertising of my blog *slips you the bribe*.
    I'm in two minds now, this book sounds really good but my mentality doesn't cope well with thrillers (I get freaked out easily. More so with books than movies). And anyway, I can't really read EVERY book you suggest. I'm a very slow reader, even if I do love it.

  4. Penguins, Thanks so much! Glad you liked it. *voice drops to whisper* Here, take the cookie. It won't look like a bribe then. ;)

    Yeah, I am one of those people who are easily freaked out by thrillers but reads them anyway and then doesn't sleep for days.... *smacks self* This one isn't super scary but it is creepy. :D

  5. i really want to read this book now! i read your entry on therese raquin last week and i want to read that too! oh, i'm so excited about this. i have so many fabulous books to read now, thanks to you :)

  6. Lucy, you're very welcome! I am glad you're enjoying the recommendations. I would love to hear what you think after you read them. We are kindred spirits: I get so excited about new books, too! :D

    Oh, yes, do not forget your cookie! :)

  7. hey zella! for your fabulous book recommendations, ive awarded you two awards on my blog! congratulations :)

  8. Thanks so much, Lucy! I feel so honored! :)

    *scampers off to accept awards* :)

  9. Zella, congrats on getting to write for that magazine! Will you post some of your work here? I'm really happy for you, I've got high hopes!
    That sounds like a pretty interesting book too.

    Psst, if you got the Floyd reference, listen to the Nightwish version ;-)

  10. Thanks, Jourdie! I am looking forward to working on the magazine. Unfortunately, I don't think I will post anything on here, because my submission is a short story and I am afraid I may hurt publication chances if it is on the web. I am thinking about starting a separate blog for my writing, though, so maybe I will post stuff on there. :)

    Hehe I did get the Floyd reference! :D I do believe that merits TWO cookies. :D