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The Satanic Bridegroom

The Satanic Bridegroom - Joe Gola Joe Gola is a friend of mine. I've known for a long time that he's a good writer and can craft a good tale. I just didn't know how good he was until I read this book.

The Satanic Bridegroom is a story set in 1920 and modern times, in that the story is framed by a modern look at an old "Weird Fiction" (e.g., Lovecraftian) novel's new perspective based on a found diary that suggests this old novel was, in fact, nonfiction. So the story is actually in two parts: the first part is the journal that seems to support the idea that the original novel wasn't fiction; and the second part is that novel. I've read other books that work with the idea of "What we thought was fiction was actually real" (Zombies of the Gene Pool is one), but not the way Joe does his. Divvying the story up between the two parts was a clever way of telling the tale.

Joe manages to have two distinctive voices between the two parts. The first is narrated by a naive American visiting Cuba, and the second is narrated by a raconteur living in the British Honduras, and both read like they were written by two different people. There’s definitely a similarity between the two parts, style-wise — the vocabulary and sentence structure mimics the style of the 1920s so well that Joe could be mistaken as a contemporary to Lovecraft or Hodgson — but the voices are very different. I'd guess that you could have someone pick a sentence from one half or the other and you'd be able to tell which half it came from just by hearing it.

If the comparisons to Lovecraft and Hodgson didn't give it away, then the title should suggest that there's a supernatural angle to the story. I won't give it away (like its predecessors, the horror comes from the atmosphere and the suggestion of terrible things never actually revealed to the reader), but I will say that Joe avoids using cliches when it comes to creating the eeriness of his story. The dialogue is sharp, the narrative is interesting and compelling, and the story is peppered with poignant observations. The story builds in its weirdness, teasing us with little oddities here and there, building to a conclusion that keeps you reading.

In short, The Satanic Bridegroom is a good story, well told, and you really need to read it. Right now.