Sometimes I forget how enjoyable straight-up old-school horror can be. You know, the stuff I grew up on? When it’s done well, as is the case with W.J. Renehan’s novella Night’s Harbor, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
At first I was a little worried since this is a vampire story, and we certainly don’t need any more romantic fang-whores littering up our literary world. No thank you. Luckily, Renehan has opted for vamps of the vicious variety. I mean, no joke, these bastards are fugly inside and out, and they do some extremely nasty things to some of the characters that even shocked me a little. Yup, Renehan is not afraid to go to some dark, dark places many authors will not explore, which I can appreciate. I mean, this is horror, right? Not a happy-go-lucky skip through Candyland while holding hands with Santa Claus.
The setup to this story is very basic. Vamps taking over a town, slaughtering or turning its denizens one by one, seeking something that could allow them to essentially take over the world, and the town (most notably a former sheriff and an old vampire hunter) must fight to protect humanity, both their own and as a whole. What makes this novel work well and stand out is Renehan’s superior command of prose. Not only is it very tight, but he allows enough flourishes of language to solidifies him as a solid all-around writer.
If I were to complain about anything, it’s that I wish this were a novel rather than a novella, mostly because I would have liked a little more breathing room to further develop some of the minor characters. The main players are developed well, considering the space constraints, but I would have loved a few more chapters with some of the other characters, specifically those who fall victim to the vampires and have some seriously horrible fates. It would have made the already strong impact even stronger.
All in all, I was impressed and look forward to reading more of Renehan’s work, especially when I get the hankering for a primo modern take on classic horror.