Sunday, May 9, 2010

Andy Deane's Werewolf Tour de Force-The Sticks: A Review

I met Andy Deane while attending ConNooga, a great sci-fi and fantasy convention located in Chattanooga (hence the name!). Andy and I shared a few panels together, as he was wearing a couple of different hats at the convention. Well, to be accurate, he wasn’t wearing a hat literally, as he was sporting a very eye-catching purple mohawk, but he was participating at ConNooga both on behalf of his band, the very highly acclaimed gothic/rock band Bella Morte, as well as representing his emerging career as an author.

The panels went great, and Andy certainly showed why he is an excellent frontman in the music arena, as he was quite the audience pleaser on the panels. We even had a rather amusing few moments where Andy mimicked the “I am Spartacus” scene from the epic movie to involve me during panelist introductions.

There is no question that Bella Morte has been a great success, having toured internationally and released no less than six studio albums. (When I told my sister upon my return about meeting Andy, and telling her that she should check the band out, she replied, “Hell yeah, Belle Morte’s a great band, and I have several of their CD’s!) But this introduction is more concerned with Andy as a writer. I received a copy of his horror novel, The Sticks, while at the convention. The cover art gave me a great feeling from the beginning, as werewolves are my favorite creatures in all of fantasy and horror literature.

From the first page to the last, I wasn’t disappointed at all! Delirium Books is a fantastic publisher, and I have to say that they made a great choice in bringing Andy Deane into their fold. His writing stands on its own merit, apart from what he has built and accomplished in his musical career.

Andy’s the kind of guy that isn’t hesitant about telling you what he thinks, and he’s also the kind of fellow that wears his heart on his sleeve. Genuine in nature, honest in his approach, and multi-talented, Andy is reflected strongly by his novel, The Sticks. Definitely recommended!

-Stephen Zimmer, for the Seventh Star Press Blogsite, May 9, 2010

A Werewolf Tour de Force: Andy Dean's The Sticks

The Sticks (Delirium Books, ISBN: 978-1934546147), by author Andy Deane, is one of those novels that you have a good feeling about from the moment that you look at the cover. Kudos to artist Zach McCain, for delivering cover art that represents the book very well. Set against a stark backdrop, with a few scattered, naked tree branches, is the figure of a hulking werewolf with eyes blazing and jaws spreading. And that is just what this book delivers: a hard-hitting, well-paced werewolf tale, with the appropriate depths of character development and plot construction to bring the horror reader a very satisfying lycanthropic adventure.

The book centers around a young man named Brian, in a small Virginia town, who is having an incredibly awkward evening as a misfit at a party of pretentious snobs. He has been dragged there by his girlfriend Alicia, and is more or less at the end of the line with her. An incident occurs at the party, and Brian finds himself walking down the road, sans Alicia.

While on the road, he is picked up by a woman that he saw at the party, named Jessica. It is fortunate that he was, as they have one hell of an encounter with something huge, large-fanged, and very fast. Right away, you get an idea of the type of werewolf featured in The Sticks. They are a tour de force of primal power, and Andy executes the action beautifully from the first encounter to the last. You feel the danger, as well as the sense of an ongoing hunt. The story is dappled with enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Deane’s tale is populated by some colorful and outrageous characters. Brian’s neighbors Myrtle, a rather crazy older lady that likes to run out of her house and expose herself, and Hank, a reclusive, edgy guy whose house is among a heap of odds and ends, make for some very interesting moments as the mayhem breaks out. Another highlight involves a pair of dull-headed, rather uncultured guys encountered at the town diner later in the book.

Yet what separates Deane’s work from the pack are the subtle touches and depth that he places at the right moments throughout the book. The relationship between Brian and Jessica, and the nascent friendship that develops with Nate Smith, is what elevates The Sticks above a decent action-horror story into something more special. Andy gets you to relate and care about some of the characters without going on a tangent, or taking away from the suspense. Brian himself comes off as a very genuine protagonist, a live and let live rocker/metalhead who is thrown into a full moon maelstrom.

The scenes are believable and visceral, painted well-enough to give you a great mental picture without getting bogged down. The werewolf encounters, and how Brian deals with them, are creative and might well cause some readers to keep their lights on.

The Sticks is a highly gratifying read, especially for a fan of action-packed horror novels featuring werewolves. It is my hope that Andy Deane revisits werewolves again, and forges ahead with his writing endeavors, as he is a rising literary talent.

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