Burning the Middle Groundby L. Andrew Cooper
Burning the Middle Ground is a dark fantasy about small-town America that transforms readers' fears about the country's direction into a haunting tale of religious conspiracy and supernatural mind control. A character-driven sensibility like Stephen King's and a flair for the bizarre like Bentley Little's delivers as much appeal for dedicated fans of fantasy and horror as for mainstream readers looking for an exciting ride.
Brian McCullough comes home from school and discovers that his ten-year-old sister Fran has murdered their parents. Five years later, a journalist, Ronald Glassner, finds Brian living at the same house in the small town of Kenning, Georgia. Planning a book on the McCullough Tragedy, Ronald stumbles into a struggle between Kenning's First Church, run by the mysterious Reverend Michael Cox, and the New Church, run by the rebellious Jeanne Harper. At the same time, Kenning's pets go berserk, and dead bodies, with the eyes and tongues removed from their heads, begin to appear.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)
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Classic horror, set in the modern world of small-town America, L. Andrew Cooper’s Burning the Middle Ground has it all—genuine scares, shocking revelations, and characters deep enough to make you really care. The story’s told in separate parts, with a middle section revealing the gradual fall from grace of a pastor seduced by evil power. There’s a haunting satisfaction to revisiting earlier scenes and looking through fallen eyes. Well-crafted suspicion turns to something much scarier and darker. And this bleak destruction sets the scene perfectly for a wild mysterious ride as the story continues, where nothing and no-one is quite as they seemed. Bracketed by prologue and epilogue that cleverly echo each other, the story leaves readers troubled and disturbed... Burning the Middle Ground is haunting horror, told with the understated shocks of a master’s pen, the unsettling mystery of dark fantasy, and the socially conscious presence of fascinating characters. Sin in the world’s eyes, and genuine evil, prove radically different. What the world views as good is susceptible to dark perversion. And hope might seem lost. By the end of the tale, the story’s done, but how will the good ensure they’re on the right side? Hopefully there'll be more tales set in this world to entertain and thrill. Disclosure: I hosted a stop on the author’s blog tour and promptly added the book to my reading list.
"A character-driven sensibility like Stephen King's and a flair for the bizarre like Bentley Little's delivers." There you have it, the single line in the cover blurb for Burning the Middle Ground that absolutely demanded I give it a read. Yes, the mention of religious conspiracy, supernatural mind control, and bodies with the eyes and tongues removed certainly caught my eye, and the overall story line sounded intriguing, but it was with the promise of a King/Little mash-up that really got me excited. While I wouldn't go so far as to call L. Andrew Cooper the next King or Little, at least not based on his debut, I can definitely see the influences in his writing. Like King, he presents us with a largely character driven tale, set in a small town, where dialogue tells a significant piece of the story. Ronald Glassner, the opportunistic journalist, is a great character - someone with whom we can identify or relate, but with a darker, selfish (or perhaps self-serving) edge that we'd rather not admit exists within ourselves. Brian McCullough is a great sympathetic character, a young man who has experienced an unimaginable tragedy, and who simply cannot let go of the past, or his quest for answers. The various inhabitants of Kenning, with whom we come into contact through the novel, are largely of the stock variety, but given enough personality to keep them distinct and alive in the reader's mind. As for the villains of the piece, it's hard to say much about them without getting into spoiler territory, but Jake Warren could definitely have slipped, crawled, and slithered is way out of Cooper's second source of inspiration. Everything about the man, particularly his creepy hypnotic charm, is just so well-suited to one of Little's tales. Where I found Cooper hasn't quite nailed the technique of the masters is in his pacing. This a good book, an exciting story filled with interesting characters, but there is a lot of history and back-story that need to be imparted for it to work. King generally does back-story in snippets and flashbacks, teasing us with the significance of it all, while Little tends to lean on grandiose speeches and scenes of exposition, dropping a bomb of revelations upon us. Here, Cooper interrupts the flow of his story for an extended middle piece that shifts the focus of the story in terms of characters, plot, and feel. It's interesting enough on its own, but oddly placed, and too long for what it's intended to do. Overall, despite the fiendishly malevolent touches of Little-inspired evil throughout the novel, this is less his brand of over-the-top horror, and more King's brand of subtle, unsettling, dread. It plays out very well, carried along, not just by the characters, but by the 'feel' of the small town. It's a very down-to-earth story, in many respects, driven by human emotion, interaction, and need. Most importantly, it's a story that raises a lot of questions as to 'how' and 'why' throughout, and which largely delivers on the answers. A great horror novel lives or dies by its resolution, and Cooper does a fine job of providing the pay-off to his tale.