A page is like an empty box. It always seems to ask just what exactly you are going to type upon its untrammeled surface – although hopefully you can find a better phrase to use than “untrammeled surface” which sounds a little pompous and somewhat overwritten in retrospect.
And then, once you have filled that empty pages with words and story then you have deal with the damnable curse of creative hindsight.
Did I do that right?
Could I have done it better?
Gwendy’s Button Box is a charming and compelling novella that is one part monkey’s paw, one part Hellraiser Lament Configuration, and one part The Devil and Daniel Webster.
Oh, and you can throw in a sprinkle of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and it wouldn’t hurt to mention that the novella is written by a couple of the creepiest wordcrafters that you have ever heard tell of – namely, Richard Chizmar and Stephen King.
All right, so I know that everyone reading this review knows or has heard of Stephen King. He’s that dude with a triple dozen bestselling horror novels, a billion or two short stories, not to mention his many television series and movies and probably even a couple of nasty bloodstained postcards that he mailed to Santa Claus.
But only the true died-in-the-blood-of-the-printing-press fans of horror fiction will recognize the name of Richard Chizmar, which is a damn shame. Me, I know Rich from a long way back. I know him from back when I first started trying to actually sell my horror fiction. One of my very first stories appeared in the pages of the second issue of his long-lived magazine, Cemetery Dance.
Okay, so you are thinking to yourself that because I call Richard a buddy of mine, means that my review is most likely biased.
I used to write reviews for magazines. I was tough on other writers. I remember being asked by a publisher if I could find something nice to write about a book that I had reviewed.
“Nice?” I asked. “Why? I was honest and true.”
“Well, yes,” the “But the author of that book purchased an advertisement with our magazine. It would only be polite if you wrote something nice in your review.”
“All right,” I said. “Write this in my review. The book had pages, which is a good thing for books that are meant to be read. Too bad the author muddied up those pages with poorly written words.”
I’m not saying that I was all that kind.
It was shortly after that, that I decided to get out of the book reviewing business, on account of I am awfully funny about what I like to read and I do not like to say good things about books that I did not particularly like.
Well, I liked GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX. I liked it a whole lot. I like the size of it. I really enjoy reading a good novella, and this one was tight and lean. It reminded me of the stories in Stephen King’s first collection, NIGHT SHIFT. Each line was taut and pure and clear – and I kind of have a sneaking suspicion that Richard had something to do with that purity and clarity. In fact, I am pretty sure that Richard might have held old Stephen King’s feet to the fire for a while to make sure that he kept his own words honed close to the bone.
I know that for an honest to blue pencil fact because I have felt the edge of Richard’s editorial knife a time or two. And I have read an awful lot of Stephen King’s fiction. I love most of it, but GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX made me grin out loud as I read it.
You ought to read it too.
You can order a copy directly from Cemetery Dance Publishing or pick up a copy in most local bookstores. It’s written in a young adult voice that is perfect for an avid teenager – but this old fart enjoyed it just as well.
Yours in storytelling,