Into the Shadows of the Sabbath House: a Review of Douglas Ford’s THE BEASTS OF VISSARIA COUNTY

There’s a texture to Douglas Ford’s novel, The Beasts of Vissaria County (D&T Publishing, 2021), that possesses a tangible familiarity, not in its content, necessarily, but something stitched deep down — something subterranean and, to fans of the man’s well-crafted work, kindred.

I was privileged to gain an early glimpse of the novel this past summer, the heat and humidity providing a season-suiting symmetry for Ford’s swampy, southern setting. The narrative follows Maggie McKenzie, single mother to son, Michael, and daughter to the cantankerous, Archie Bunker-esque Vernon. Ford’s “Bible Belt” backdrop serves to provide an ulterior tension throughout the novel bearing uncanny conspiracies along with monsters both marital and supernatural. Ford also aims our focus on the alternating exhaustion and depletion of industry, brought on by the “boom and bust years”; and the metaphor is extended, coalescing in his memorable, yet “hollow,” Sabbath House.

Ford’s Sabbath House occupies a number of vivid set pieces. Within these scenes, it’s impossible for my mind to escape a recollective connection associated with the cherished aesthetics from my formative years — I’m speaking specifically of the charmingly Gothic decay of Dark Shadows; but there’s a seductive, referential energy at play here too, in the eerie landscapes of Scooby-Doo and the problem-solving penchant Kolchak, Sabrina, and Nancy Drew. One of Ford’s characters even goes so far as to draw our attention to “some prized John Bellairs books.” Of course, Ford utilizes the twines of this pop-culture DNA to compose a more astute, and grittier, homage to these supernatural and horror-rooted institutions.

Of course, our audience is — our readers are — of paramount importance (we’d be babbling and unraveling alone in a room without them); but, amongst writers, there are other grains of information being traded and decoded as we absorb one another’s work. There are techniques (let’s also call them frequencies) being utilized which call attention to themselves that, in many cases, have a subsequent effect in style. In short, colleagues provide a certain definition for each other. “I wanted to read to understand,” he writes, “for illumination,” and I’m perpetually illuminated with each installment of Ford’s work.

Mingling fiends and occult-fueled fun, Douglas Ford’s The Beasts of Vissaria County is a worthy exercise in honoring everything beloved in horror fiction.

“Feast Your Eyes…” on Grand October…

With about a month until it’s release, preorders are now available for Nightscript, Vol. VII. Both paperbacks and Kindle editions with be released on October 1, 2021.

For the past seven years, the annual arrival of C.M. Muller’s Nigthscript anthology has been a harbinger of of the Halloween season. But festivities aside, Muller, as editor of various volumes (see Oculus Sinister and Twice-Told), has an astute sense of contemporary tonality; and as such, and as with previous installments, it’s an honor to add some ink to Nightscript. My story, “Feast Your Eyes on the Yawning Monotony of Humdrum Rot,” has been placed on table of contents in league with some remarkable writers:

Feast Your Eyes on the Yawning Monotony of Humdrum Rot — Clint Smith 
The Passing — Joshua Rex
When Sleep At Last — Douglas Thompson
The Summer King’s Day — Timothy Granville
Roadkill — Elin Olausson 
It Looked Like Her — Gordon Brown
Little Gods To Live In Them — David Surface
We Are The Gorillas — Douglas Ford
The Body Trick — Alexander James
Feed  Jason A. Wyckoff
’Neath The Mirror Of The Sea  Rhonda Eikamp
Clipped Wings — Steve Toase
The Cardboard Voice — Tim Major
The Validations  Ashley Stokes
A Perfect Doll — Regina Garza Mitchell
Madam and Yves — Marc Joan
The Delf — Danny Rhodes
Where the Oxen Turned the Plow — Charles Wilkinson
Feast of Fools: A Heartwarming Holiday Romance — LC von Hessen