‘The Hush’ by John Hart

As I read this powerful novel for the third time, I wonder why I didn’t review it in February of 2019 when it was published as a sequel to Hart’s The Lost Child. The book is dark, features a forbidding land of swamps and woods where outsiders get lost or killed, is fawned over by hunters and a family who has gone to court to extract it from owner Johnny Merrimon, and is as close to Johnny as his psyche.

“The Hush” refers to a hush arbor, one of many places where slaves worshipped in private to avoid trouble with their owners. The lives of slaves and the Merrimons are tangled together on this property in ways that even the current generation don’t know–though stronger and stronger dreams are hinting at the sins of the past.

I’ve read many of Hart’s books. All of them are strong–visceral, almost–and well written. This one–for me–is the strongest novel because of the linkage between the land, the people, and the folklore.

“The Hush,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Bill Sheehan, “is a harsh, inimical landscape in which disorientation rules and trees, paths and familiar landmarks seem to shift and disappear. It is a self-contained world in which unwelcome visitors are sometimes driven to madness and sometimes destroyed, and Hart evokes that surreal landscape with a power and economy worthy of the great British horror novelist Ramsey Campbell. ‘In that first hour, the forest was still,’ Hart writes, ‘but as light strengthened, a dawn chorus rose around them, a symphony of catbird and Carolina wren, of mourning dove and cardinal and the deep-throated gunk of green frogs in the pocosins that fingered up from the distant swamp.’”

In this novel, the reader doesn’t escape from the land which, perhaps, is the real protagonist, though most of the townspeople see Johnny as more an inexplicable anomaly than the land he owns–to the extent anyone can own such land as this.  His best friend Jack, who suffered through the past with him in The Lost Child, risks everything to help him. That might prove impossible.

Multiple readings of novels tend to bring out secrets we didn’t notice the first time through. When it comes to The Hush, those of us who seek out the mysteries of land and people may be too close to see the real from the unreal.

Highly recommended for readers of dark fantasy.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Fate’s Arrows,” magical realism set in the Florida Panhandle during the days when the KKK ruled the world.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell author to return after 16-year gap

Sixteen years after readers were introduced to the magical world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke is to publish her second novel.

Source: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell author to return after 16-year gap | Books | The Guardian

Her first novel seemingly came out of nowhere, sold four million copies, and then she was silent except for a short piece linked to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I can absolve 2020 for some of its crimes because of the upcoming publication of Piranesi.

Publisher’s Description

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Personally, I classify this book for lovers if magic and fantasy as a book not to be missed.

–Malcolm

I’m so old, my secret crushes are dying off

My wife smiled when she told me twelve years ago when Suzanne Pleshette died that I need to find a fresh group of Hollywood actresses to fantasize about. At the time, I said, “Well, Millie Perkins is still around.” “Yes, but she’s older than you,” said my wife.

When Shirley Maclaine appeared on episodes of Downton Abbey, I had to acknowledge–even to myself–that she was no longer Fran Kubelik from my favorite movie “The Apartment” (1960).

I identify with the film’s C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) because he’s the poor schmuck who’s always lending his apartment to the bigwigs at his company to facilitate their liaisons with women while he never “gets the girl.”

When I first saw “The Apartment,” I imagined that I’d be driving along a lonely road in my 1954 Chevy when what should I see, but a broken-down Rolls Royce Silver Cloud with Shirley alone in the back seat while her driver went in search of help but had been eaten by alligators when he cut across a swamp. (Damn fool.)

When I open the door, she says, “Oh, my love, my darling I’ve hungered for your touch, a long lonely time. . .”

“That song hasn’t been released yet,” I say.

“I get an AAC, and Advanced Actress Copy,” she says, demurely.

“If so, you should have told Hy Zaret that he screwed up the lyrics,” I said.

“How so?”

That first line should have said “Oh, my love, my darling love, I’ve hungered for your touch.'”

“When you’re right, you’re right, lyrics-wise and Everly Brothers-wise,” she says. “You can take me away from all this, can’t you?”

“All what?”

“The swamp, the alligators, the car, the long lonely time since Fran Kubelik shuffled the cards at the end of ‘The Apartment’ and told C. C. Baxter to shut up and deal. Are you ready to deal, Malcolm?”

I never get to answer because that’s when Mother wakes me up and says, “It’s time to run your paper route.”

Malcolm

 

Free Book Promotion: ‘The Sun Singer’

Free on Kindle

My contemporary fantasy novel The Sun Singer will be free on Kindle from June 30 through July 4.

A “Foreword Magazine” Book of the Year Finalist when it first came out, this remains my favorite novel (though I won’t say that to the characters in my other novels.) If you’ve already read The Sun Singer, you may enjoy the sequel Sarabande.

Both books are set in the mountain high country of Montana’s Glacier National Park where I worked as a seasonal hotel employee and hiked all the trails used in the novels.

Description

Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

I hope you enjoy the story.

Malcolm

 

 

‘The Sun Singer’ – Free on Kindle

My contemporary fantasy set in the mountains of Glacier National Park Montana is free on Kindle May 2 through May 6, 2020.

 

Description

Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

From My Favorite Reader Review

Mr. Campbell used his astute and unfettered imagination to weave this labyrinthine tale full of many different elements seamlessly. The landscape descriptions are dynamic and beautifully written. The matter of where Robert goes and the full-blown characters that he meets along the way are all realistically believable. Well, except for perhaps Garth, the wood elf. But he was pure magic and I enjoyed his character immensely. Robert finds himself on his own, learning to navigate this coinciding world, which is exactly like our own, a few hundred years earlier in time. To do that he has to learn to trust his dreams and to listen to his intuition on who to trust. This is a wildly spirited and intelligent adventure story where Robert has to learn to believe in the energies around him for them to flow through him. I enjoyed the messages of extended families and the way things came together at the end. All ages of readers who enjoy mystical adventures, alternate universes, or epic tales will love this story.

–Review by ?wazithinkin

I hope you enjoy the story.

–Malcolm

You may also like Sarabande, the sequel to The Sun Singer.

 

 

BigAl’s Books and Pals Review: ‘The Sun Singer’ by Malcolm R Campbell

This is one of Campbell’s earlier books (first published 2010) and already his gifts for drawing warm characters and laying out a story so it flows towards and immerses the reader are well developed.

Source: BigAl’s Books and Pals: Review: The Sun Singer (Mountain Journeys Book 1) by Malcolm R Campbell

First Edition

Seeing this unexpected review appear on my Facebook news feed this morning makes my week (much more than yesterday’s after-supper lawn mowing), brings back a ton of nostalgia, and makes me wonder once again whether I made a very bad decision pulling it away from the agent who had my typewritten manuscript for the book in the 1980s.

The reviewer mentions that the book was inspired by the mountains of Glacier National Park Montana where I worked two summers as a hotel bellman. Those of you who have read my blogs for years also know that it was also inspired by a famous statue called “The Sun Singer” which I saw at Allerton Park, Illinois when I was (I think) in junior high school.

The novel is a bit earlier than the reviewer knows. I wrote it in the 1980s, got it accepted by a small but influential agent, and then waited for almost a year with no word. She liked the novel, but her small agency had also taken on a novel that turned out to be as huge then as The Game of Thrones is now. (I refuse to mention the title of the book or its sequels.) She said my wait would be an even longer one, so I took the manuscript back.

Was that a mistake? I guess I’ll never know. She might have found a publisher when she finally got around to actively shopping it, or she might not. The fact that an agent liked it led me to believe I could find a publisher who liked it. That took 24 years. I was gratified by the fact the book’s 2004 first edition was a “Foreword Reviews” book-of-the-year finalist but less than pleased that my publisher was iUniverse, a vanity press. But I would always wonder if the book might have received a wider audience in less time if I’d left it with that agent.

Current Edition

Later, several small traditional publishers wanted it, and this led to the 2010 edition. That publisher and I ultimately had a contractual disagreement, and that led to the current (2015) Kindle edition.

It’s interesting to me that several passages in the novel that happened more or less simultaneously were typeset by iUniverse in side-by-side columns. Nobody else has been able to do that since, including several other prospective publishers. I grew up in a letterpress-evolving-to-offset printing world where those columns wouldn’t have been a problem. “Progress” into a print-on-demand/Kindle world has taken away an option for small-press authors.

Nonetheless, this weird history of the novel doesn’t take away my gratitude that a reviewer found and liked the book after all these years. With a bit of luck, maybe my first novel will find a few more readers.

Malcolm

 

 

That book on the end of the shelf

I’ve written a lot of words on this blog during the past two years about my three magical realism, conjure and crime novels set in north Florida: Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and Lena. But what’s the book on the end of the shelf?

That book, Sarabande, was the most difficult novel for me to write. Previously, I’d written The Sun Singer, a hero’s journey contemporary fantasy told from a young man’s point of view. But the hero’s journey is only half of the world’s mythic cosmic story. I needed the heroine’s journey, a novel told from a young woman’s point of view.

The hero’s journey is a series of events out of comparative mythology developed by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. While some authors have tried, the heroine’s journey cannot be shoe-horned into the hero’s journey scheme. It’s too different, more moon and seeds and underworld secrets than derring-do and sky-god stories and changing oneself while risking one’s life in the service of others.

As an author, it’s difficult for a man to put himself into a woman’s shoes and tell a woman’s story. While he may have worn such shoes in previous lifetimes, he doesn’t belong in those shoes in this lifetime. Fortunately, my main character, Sarabande also appeared in The Sun Singer and that meant I had known her for a long time, so there was a history there that was stronger than it would have been if I had used a new character.

I liked Sarabande in The Sun Singer and avoided writing a novel about her for many months because I didn’t want to see her go through the heroine’s journey, a journey that included a physical assault by a man and a vicious and life threatening sexual overture by a female denizen of the underworld. The book was a learning experience for me, though one that was most likely limited to the confines of the book rather than my coming anywhere close to truly knowing the trials and joys of women.

My happiest moment after the book was released was the comment by a female reviewer who said that the story was so real she had to keep reminding herself that it had been written by a male author.

Sarabande is a dark women’s story written primarily for women. The man’s hero’s journey, when it unfolds naturally, ends in transformation. Likewise, the woman’s heroine’s journey. Two paths, each undertaken out of the necessities of the real world, yet each ending in profound, spiritual changes on opposides of the male/female coin.

Sarabande is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.

Malcolm

Briefly Noted: ‘Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction’

Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction by Farah Mendlesohn and Michael Levy won the 2018 Mythopoeic Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies. When Sandra Lindow, Levy’s widow, accepted the award for her late husband (who died last year), she said, “He would be particularly pleased to receive this recognition because historically children’s fantasy has been undervalued. A good part of his career was dedicated to reading and researching those books that provide both high-quality entertainment and emotional education for children and young adults.”

With the exception of R. J. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which also captured the attention of adult readers, children’s fantasy is often written off as “just kids’ stuff” while fairy tales have received a great deal of scholarly analysis. I hope this award will help draw attention to this book as well as its subject.

Publisher’s Description

“Fantasy has been an important and much-loved part of children’s literature for hundreds of years, yet relatively little has been written about it. Children’s Fantasy Literature traces the development of the tradition of the children’s fantastic – fictions specifically written for children and fictions appropriated by them – from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, examining the work of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling and others from across the English-speaking world. The volume considers changing views on both the nature of the child and on the appropriateness of fantasy for the child reader, the role of children’s fantasy literature in helping to develop the imagination, and its complex interactions with issues of class, politics, and gender. The text analyses hundreds of works of fiction, placing each in its appropriate context within the tradition of fantasy literature.”

Children’s Literature Association Quarterly Review

“Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction is an immense work in scope and scholarship. As befits its authors, Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn – two prominent figures in the world of children’s literature criticism – this latest work is a far-reaching feat that grasps the tenuous strings of the inception of both fantasy and children’s literature and weaves them from the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries into a tremendous narrative tapestry.” – Joli Barham McClelland

From the Introduction

“The aim of this book is to bring together two traditions of criticism, that of the literature of the fantasic, and that of children’s literature. In addition, the book aims ti situate children’s fantasy in the context of changing ideas of childhood across three centuries; and perhaps most crucially, to consider the effect which the extension of childhood has had upon the writing and publishing of children’s fiction.”

The research and writing of this book comprise an ambitious project that will lead to greater understanding of the genre and–with luck–more respect.

Malcolm

 

New Cover for ‘The Sun Singer’

I have updated the cover of The Sun Singer to make the style similar to the covers of Mountain Song and At Sea. The text is the same inside with the exception of the photo credit for the new cover and an update to my list of other novels.

The hero’s journey adventure story is contemporary fantasy.

Description:

Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country of Glacier National Park, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

The heroine’s journey story sequel is Sarabande,

–Malcolm

February book give-away

My contemporary fantasy novel The Sun Singer will be free on Kindle February 4th and 5th.

DescriptionRobert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

Praise for The Sun Singer

Many thanks to the seventeen readers who posted Amazon reviews with a 4.9-star average rating.

I love everything you said, but I am especially fond of the review left by contemporary fantasy author Seth Mullins in 2006: “I have encountered few books that have moved me like this one has. Thomas Covenant. Lord of the Rings. Stranger in a Strange Land. There are a few I could name; but really, how many life-changing moments can you have without feeling a little crazy in the end? Life, in its wisdom, rations them out to us. The Sun Singer is one. Maybe I’ll never have the opportunity to encounter the forces of darkness and light that struggle in the depths of my soul, personified within an exotic and yet strangely familiar otherworld, like Robert Adams was fortunate enough to. But I do know this: after reading this book, my own mundane world didn’t look or feel quite the same. I reckon yours may not either, at that.”

Even though the book is free, I know that reading it represents an investment of your time. If you download the book, I hope you enjoy it and see your time with this hero’s journey novel as time well spent.

Malcolm