Epeolatry Book Review: Nocturnal Pursuits by Glenn Rolfe
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Title: Nocturnal Pursuits
Author: Glenn Rolfe
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 29th November, 2021
Synopsis: Glenn Rolfe (Blood and Rain and August’s Eyes) is back with a new collection of deliciously frightening, thought-provoking horror. Whether dealing with werewolves in “The Dead Brother Situation”, a vicious cult in “The Devil’s Kin”, an evil doll in the Splatterpunk Award-nominated “Molly”, or gut-wrenching loss in “Gone Away”, these fifteen dark tales promise to entertain, cause your skin to crawl, and make you feel a little more.
Nocturnal Pursuits takes you on a journey into the heart of an author both obsessed with and afraid of the macabre. Be it a suicide woods, a crazed gas station attendant, or neighborhood enigma throwing a party, you won’t soon forget these encounters.
When the shadows fall upon the day and the living are fast asleep, Glenn Rolfe is wide-awake wrestling with aliens, demons, and the ghosts that take up the dark corners of his mind. You’ve been invited. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
When I first sat down to read Nocturnal Pursuits, I didn’t know what to expect. Despite Glenn Rolfe’s prolific career in terror, I hadn’t read any of his previous work, and the artwork on the cover of his newest short fiction collection—an owl haunting an overgrown thicket at night—didn’t give me much of a clue. However, Nocturnal wastes little time in heating up to a high-octane level of unsettling gore with its first entry, and the book maintains that steady pace over the majority of its fifteen tales.
The opening story, “Orson’s Gas n’ Go” takes place in the late 1980s at an out-of-the-way fill-up station. Two “rock n’ roll rejects” are passers-by customers whose snarkiness and fondness for five finger discounts nudge the reader immediately onto the side of the antihero, psychotic station owner Orson Allister, even as the action high-tails it into full throttle Tarantino splattergore. In “Something in the Water” Randy Plourde and his girlfriend Cindy steal a sly bit of skinny-dipping in Demore Lake until the latter dives under the water and emerges with more than pond scum stuck to her facial skin. Those with weak stomachs—or who are already wary of the gamey aroma some natural bodies of water emit—should take heed. The terror continues as more pairs venture out onto the placidly-appearing lake. Fans of Stephen King’s “The Raft” should take a closer look: Rolfe throws a curveball into the climax and resolution that readers won’t see coming, but they are certain to walk away satisfied.
“Everett” begins “Bret bought her the doll for comfort. Ever since Arnold’s death, Teresa’s depression had morphed into something ugly and dangerous. She didn’t sleep. A steady diet of cigarettes, alcohol, and Prozac fueled her will to exist…but tonight he would present her with the doll [and] Teresa would love him. Bret knew it in his heart.” Bret is correct, but he will wish more than anything that he were wrong. I’m generally not a fan of inanimate objects coming to life in fiction, but this tale, and a few others with similar speculative animation in Nocturnal, creeped the hell out of me. Those familiar with the Zuni fetish doll in Trilogy of Terror will appreciate Rolfe’s well-paced horror here.
In “Master of Beyond” Jillian, Cindy, Sean, and Cooper have a bit a fun with a toy Ouija board, but they aren’t prepared to wrangle with the demon their frivolity unleashes. With 1980s MTV metal playing a soundtrack in the background of just about every scene, the reader practically can smell the hairspray and Camel Light secondhand smoke of the setting, and that only enhances the fun. Fans of Gen X slasher films will eat this one up with as much relish as I did.
Finally, in “Molly” Caleb works as a clerk in a mid-range chain hotel. Ann Marie is a frequent guest, a Karen character who repulses then intrigues him. What follows is a heaping spoonful of sexy interludes, some mysterious silhouettes of Ann Marie holding what appears to be a small child, and a “razor-shape blade [dragging] across each of [one character’s] Achilles’ tendons.” Filmmakers who infuse their horror with awkwardly misplaced sex scenes should take careful notes while reading Rolfe’s entry: this is how you make terror titillating.
What is particularly unique about Glenn Rolfe’s style is the author’s ability to take tried and true horror tropes and recolor them using funky technicolor overlays readers do not expect to see. His cadence, at times, breaks barriers, describing the smallest of details in unique ways, from a character “sweating like a whore riding a John into a soiled mattress” to a seemingly innocuous item spilling “a trail of spiders down [a character’s] back.” There are some heavier tales in the bunch that I suspect are ripped directly from the author’s personal tragedy or experience, and it will be up to the individual reader to determine how to digest those, but the collection is worth buying for the stand-outs and fresh filters Rolfe brings to the horror table. Overall, Noctural Pursuits is smart, it’s fun, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more Rolfe releases in the future.
Available from Amazon.
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Rebecca Rowland is a New England-born author of dark fiction and editor of horror anthologies. Projects releasing this summer include the anthology in tribute to the late, great Anne Rice Dancing in the Shadows, the transgressive weird horror Shagging the Boss, and the speculative fiction hybrid Optic Nerve. For a preview, visit RowlandBooks.com; for a peek at what shiny object she’s fixating on this week, follow her on Instagram @Rebecca_Rowland_books.