Many of my latest (and future) blog posts are about novels I’ve written and am releasing. But this post is about someone else’s novel. One I fully intend on talking up to everyone I know until I get the eye rolls that let me know I’m going on about it too much. And I need to buy a few copies and give them away. This is a 1945 novel that has drifted out of print for long stretches while, I’m overjoyed to say, it’s back in print on July 7 of this year.
Joel Townsley Rogers’ incredible novel The Red Right Hand opens with the aftermath of a crime. A young couple on a scenic trip have encountered a frightening stranger, the story beginning with the narrator trying to sort out exactly what happened. This description is no spoiler, for it’s merely how the book opens and I will say no more about the plot or the characters. I truly want to ruin nothing about the experience of this novel for anyone who hasn’t read it.
What I will say is that The Red Right Hand is a feverish, hallucinatory nightmare, dripping with nocturnal atmosphere, recurring dread, and much more. Written by a prolific, master pulp writer, it’s much appreciated by writers and genre enthusiasts, but seems to have never crossed that far into the mainstream. Maybe now is the time for that to change. If you like mystery, crime, or the more psychological brand of horror, you need to read it, preferably on a hot summer night with open windows, a darkened screen door nearby, and all of nature’s unearthly sounds drifting in.
Don’t take my word for it, just trust Donald Westlake: “I believe Joel Townsley Rogers’ The Red Right Hand should be reissued every 5 years forever.”
Two more novels in the Maize Noir world of Midwestern themed crime fiction are coming, Spider’s Wine and Attack Therapy. They are written and on the way this year, but now is the time for Part 1 of this loosely connected trilogy. So, without further ado, let’s close with an excerpt from Screw Punch:
She had nothing left to do but help Kim find her tool and get out of there.
So she paused to look into a wall mirror above the little microwave that sat on the inadequate table. Her hair had been pulled up in a pony tail that she now released to shake her hair around and regather in her hands.
As she shaped her hair together into a thick stream, she noticed absentmindedly that the closet door was open by a small crack.
She looked up critically at the mirror, noticing straight white-blond hairs that were escaping her pony tail and that she smoothed back over her scalp with both hands. Then she pulled off the hair tie, rested it on two fingers, and grabbed all of her hair and bunched it all within one petite fist.
And then she stopped, frozen, and hair began to drift down. In the mirror, her eyes enlarged and her mouth opened silently.
A pair of eyes was staring back at her from the closet.
The final part of the movie ended eight minutes before class was over, and the teacher spent the time asking everyone if the movie matched how they envisioned it from reading the play, talk that was half-audible from the whirring rewind of the old VHS tape. Brian was buoyed at class being almost over, the comfort of casual conversation going on in the background, and the machine noise as he drew in the folder creases. Soon, the bell rang and they were dismissed. Brian was out the classroom door with his typical energy, into the main hallway, and then climbed the main stairwell to a large window.
The sky was almost black.
He stuck his head out of the partially opened window to see no sun. The darkness covered most of the sky, only a hint of the morning’s blue in the east but the smeared charcoal faded into gray in the west. There the rain was already falling, and soon it would run down in cold jets from a dark silver sky over the school.
“Partly cloudy, chance of rain.”
Brian turned slowly and walked to study hall. It was on the first floor, a short distance with no rush, and all he had to do was descend further downwards.
Copyright 2018 Anders Runestad. All rights reserved.
These two stories are just the beginning. In the not too distant and foreseeable future, I will be unleashing more short fiction. While there are a few story outlets around, there isn’t a glut of pulp magazines like Planet Stories and Thrilling Mystery anymore. The true inheritor of the short fiction mantle is indie self-publishing, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
Speaking of the future . . . I’ve been cooking up some more book projects, which I will reveal more about this fall.