Tuesday, January 10, 2012

“Vampires in the Coal Mines”: A Review of Gary Lee Vincent’s Darkened Hollows

(Burning Bulb Publishing, 2011, ISBN: 9780615527222)

In this sequel to Darkened Hills (2010), which I recently reviewed, Gary Lee Vincent begins to hit his stride as both a storyteller and an integrator of the culture and communities of West Virginia into the vampire genre.

Over the first quarter or so of the novel, Vincent fills in the gaps in the story told in the previous book, an interesting technique that he handles with craft. Through narrative supported by fictional newspaper articles, court transcripts, and other devices, he gives the reader a broader understanding of the events that transpired in the fictional WV town of Melas (that’s Salem, spelled backwards) in the prequel.

As I eluded to at the onset, this novel in many ways surpasses its predecessor, delving deeper into both vampire/demon mythology and two main staples of West Virginia—the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (the fiction Weston Lunatic Asylum in the novel) and the coal mine.

A standout section of the book is chapter 5. It is here that we find out the underlying stories of the vampires, and who they “answer” to, and Vincent’s exploration of the history of psychiatric medicine in the United States, as expressed through the history of the local lunatic asylum, is well-researched and seamlessly woven into the larger story.

Chapter 6 is equally strong, taking on the structural and procedural complexities of coal mining. The level of detail and vivid description of the tunnels and structural supports adds to the ever-building tension as a group of hapless miners encounter the zombie-like creatures of the underground.

From here to the end, the story builds with all the requisite characters and evil machinations of the prototypical American horror novel as exemplified by Stephen King, with local law enforcement, disgruntled low-level medical staff, a snow storm, evil Doctors, and of course the vampires and the heroes (in this case, also ala King, a dysfunctional “family” triad) all converging on the lunatic asylum.

With one more novel promised next year to close out the trilogy, the ending leaves things at a purposely high level of chaos.

Just a few words about Vincent: He has published several non-fiction books as well as the novel Passageway and has a background and Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems. In addition to being an author, editor, and publisher he is also a recording artist, with three albums to his credit.