A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Get ready to rumble

Our mothers always warned us not to accept a ride from a stranger, because that stranger might turn out to be a lunatic. Likewise, mom would tell us not to give a ride to a stranger, because that person may turn out to be a lunatic, too. Well, what do you suppose might happen if a hitchhiker who was indeed a lunatic accepted a ride from a guy who was also a lunatic? Check out Serial by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch, currently available for free on Kindle, to find out.

Serial is a great little collaborative effort by two entertaining writers. Chapter one shows the grandfatherly-looking serial killer known simply as Donaldson torture and kill a hapless hitchhiker that he picks up at a rest stop. Chapter two shows a woman serial killer named Lucy torture and kill two guys who picked her up hitchhiking. Chapter three is serial killer Donaldson giving a ride to serial killer Lucy, and the fun begins.

The story is graphic and visceral and not for the squeamish, but don't worry- it's not torture porn. Jack Kilborn (who's really thriller writer J.A. Konrath) and Blake Crouch are pros who know how to tell a story, not talentless hacks just describing an ax falling and hacking off limbs (not that there are scenes as unimaginative as a simple ax attack here). Yes, you will graphically be told what implement, say, Donaldson decides to use against his victim, and, yes, you are clearly told what Donaldson does with the implement. But the facts are related quickly, without excruciating detail. The rest is all in the reader's head. Kilborn and Crouch give us what our neurons need to know to get started, and sit back and let us fill in the rest. That's why it's such a hoot to read some of the reviews on Amazon that complain about the "too graphic" nature of Serial. In the end, these nastily clever guys realize that good horror writing- even graphic horror- ultimately comes from a formula of one part writer and three parts reader.

Serial is about the length of a longish story in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and- truth be told- could probably appear there with only a little re-writing to tone it down from its current Hard-R or NC-17 tone. After all, most of the story consists of interesting character exchanges (lots of dark-tinged banter, especially), moments of clever set-up, and plenty of good suspense, all things that have to do with decent writing and not graphic bloodletting.

After the story's over, Serial is rounded out by a fun, illuminating chat between the two authors and moody, entertaining excerpts from two of their books, making the whole package good for an hour or two of edgy entertainment on the couch or porch, just you and your Kindle.

Even if Serial goes up to a buck or so from its current bargain price of free, this Kindle exclusive would still be a worthwhile download for horror and suspense enthusiasts.

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