After two miscarriages, writer Adam Senft's marriage is on the rocks, and his only satisfaction comes from his bond with his dog, Big Steve. One day, on a walk through local woods rumored to be haunted, man and dog come across a strange sight: a woman performing fellatio on a statue of a satyr-which comes to life and sees them. Soon, all the women in town begin disappearing, summoned to the woods by the satyr's hypnotic piping. When Adam gathers the menfolk to hunt down the satyr and retrieve the women, what they uncover is an unholy evil bent on protecting itself and spreading its seed. Keene displays a fluid command of mythology and has a vivid take on contemporary magic. The conjuring of a blue-collar rural America, one riven with legends and dark crannies, is also superb. The latest from Keene (Dead Sea) grabs the reader immediately and doesn't let go. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Dark Hollowby Brian Keene
Something very strange is happening in LeHorn's Hollow...
Eerie, piping music is heard late at night, and mysterious fires have been spotted deep in the woods. Women are vanishing without a trace overnight, leaving behind husbands and families.
When up-and-coming novelist Adam Senft stumbles upon an unearthly scene, it plunges him and the/i>
Something very strange is happening in LeHorn's Hollow...
Eerie, piping music is heard late at night, and mysterious fires have been spotted deep in the woods. Women are vanishing without a trace overnight, leaving behind husbands and families.
When up-and-coming novelist Adam Senft stumbles upon an unearthly scene, it plunges him and the entire town into an ancient nightmare. Folks say the woods in LeHorn's Hollow are haunted, but what waits there is far worse than any ghost. It has been summoned...and now it demands to be satisfied.
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Read an ExcerptDark Hollow
By Brian Keene Dorchester Publishing Copyright © 2008 Brian Keene
All right reserved.
Chapter One It was on the first day of spring that Big Steve and I saw Shelly Carpenter giving head to the hairy man.
Winter had been a hard one. Two books to write in five months' time. It's not something I recommend doing, if you can help it. There was a lot of pressure involved. The sales of my first novel, Heart of the Matter, caught my critics, my publisher, and even myself by surprise. It did very well-something a book of its kind isn't supposed to do, especially a midlist, mass-market mystery paperback with no promotional campaign behind it other than a quarter-page advertisement in one lone trade magazine. Publishers don't buy a lot of advertising for midlist authors.
Suffice to say, I beat the odds. Flush with success, I quit my day job-only to learn that I wouldn't be getting a royalty check for at least another year. We'd already blown through the advance: mortgage payments, credit card payments, car and truck payments, new living room furniture for my wife, Tara, and a new laptop for me. Plus, I'd spent quite a bit of my own cash traveling to book signings. Publishers don't pay for midlist book signing tours either.
If I'd had an agent, maybe they would have explained the pay schedule to me. Or then again, maybe they wouldn't have. Personally, I'm glad I don't have an agent. They require fifteen percent of your earnings, and I was broke. Fifteen percent of shit is still shit.
I could have gone back to work part-time at the paper mill in Spring Grove, but I figured that if I applied myself to the writing, I'd be making about as much money as I would at the mill anyway, so I decided to follow what I love doing.
Tara still worked, insisting that she pay the bills while I stayed home and wrote. We needed the health insurance her company provided, but we couldn't survive on just one income. Thus two more books for two different publishers in five months' time, written just for the advance money, which would see us through the winter. Don't get me wrong: It was a nice chunk of change, but when you totaled up the hours I spent writing, the advance for the next two novels came out to about a buck eighty an hour. And to make matters worse, they weren't really stories that I wanted to write. They didn't speak to me. I wasn't passionate about them, and had lost my sense of wonder.
But we needed the money. Some people call that being a hack. I call it necessity.
The pressure got to me. I started smoking again-two packs a day-and drank coffee nonstop. I'd get up at five, make the daily commute from the bed to the coffeepot to the computer, and start writing. I'd work on one novel until noon, take a break for lunch, and then work on the second novel until late evening. After a full day of that I'd take care of business: reading contracts, responding to fan mail, checking my message board, giving interviews-all the other things that constitute writing but don't actually involve putting words on paper-and go to bed around midnight. Then I'd get up the next morning and do it all over again. Seven days a week. The glamorous life of a writer.
During those rough months, I'd have gone insane if not for Big Steve. Tara brought him home from the pound to keep me company during the day. Big Steve was a mixed-breed mutt-part beagle, part rottweiler, part black Lab, and one hundred percent pussy. Despite his formidable size and bark, Big Steve was scared of his own shadow. He ran from butterflies and squirrels, fled from birds and wind-tossed leaves, and cowered when the mailwoman came to the door. When Tara first brought him home, he hid in the corner of the kitchen for half a day, shaking, with his tail between his legs. He warmed up to us fairly quickly, but he was still frightened by anything else. Not that he let it show. When something-it didn't matter what, a groundhog or Seth Ferguson, the kid from across the street-stepped onto our property, the rottweiler inside him came out. He was all bark and no bite, but a robber would have had a hard time believing that.
Big Steve became my best friend. He listened while I read manuscript pages out loud to him. He'd lie on the couch and watch television with me when I took a break from writing. We liked the same beer, and the same food (because dog food just didn't do it for Big Steve; he preferred a nice, juicy steak or some cheese-dripping pizza). Most important, Big Steve knew when it was time to drag my ass away from the computer. That was how we started our daily walks, and now they were a scheduled routine. Two per day-one at dawn, shortly after Tara left for work, and the second at sundown, before I started making dinner, when she was on her way home. Tara commuted to Baltimore every day, and it was at those times-when she first left and when she was due home-that the house seemed especially lonely. Big Steve had impeccable timing. He'd get me outside, and that always cheered me up.
Which brings us back to Shelly Carpenter and the hairy man.
When Tara left for work that Monday, the first day of spring, Big Steve stood at the door and barked: once-short and to the point.
Behold, I stand at the door and bark; therefore I need to pee.
"You ready to go outside?" I asked.
He thumped his tail in affirmation, and his ears perked up. His big, brown eyes shone with excitement. It didn't take much to make Big Steve happy.
I clipped his leash to his collar (despite his fear of anything that moves, there is enough beagle in Big Steve to inspire a love of running off into the woods with his nose to the ground, and not coming home until after dark). We stepped outside. The sun was shining, and it felt good on my face. It was unseasonably warm, almost like summer. Tara and I had planted a lilac bush the year before, and the flowers bloomed, their scent fragrant and sweet. Birds chirped and sang to one another in the big oak tree in our backyard. A squirrel ran along the roof of my garage, chattering at Big Steve. The dog shrank away from it.
The long, cold winter had come and gone, and somehow I'd made it through and finished both manuscripts, Cold as Ice and When the Rain Comes. Now I could finally focus on the novel that I wanted to write, something other than a midlist mystery. Something big, with enough crossover potential to really get me noticed, maybe a novel about the Civil War. I felt good. Better than I had in months. The weather probably had something to do with that. Now it was spring, the season of rebirth and renewal and all that jazz. The time when nature lets the animal kingdom know that it's time to make lots of babies. Spring, the season of sex and happiness. The rutting season.
Big Steve celebrated the first day of spring by pissing on the lilac bush, pissing on the garage, pissing on the sidewalk, and pissing twice on the big oak tree-which further infuriated the squirrel. The tree limbs shook as it expressed its displeasure. Big Steve barked at his aggressor, but only after he was safely behind me.
Our house is sandwiched between Main Street and a narrow back alley separating us from the community Fire Hall. The Fire Hall borders a grassy vacant lot and a neighborhood park, the kind with swings and monkey bars and deep piles of mulch to keep kids from skinning their knees when they come down the sliding boards. Beyond the playground lies the forest-roughly thirty square miles of protected Pennsylvanian woodland, zoned to prevent farmers and Realtors from cutting it all down and planting crops or building subdivisions. The forest is surrounded on all sides by our town, and the towns of Seven Valleys, New Freedom, Spring Grove, and New Salem. They all have video stores and grocery outlets and pizza shops (and our town even has a Wal-Mart), but you wouldn't know it while standing inside the forest. Stepping through that tree line was like traveling through time to a Pennsylvania where the Susquehanna Indians still roamed free and the Germans, Quakers, and Amish were yet to come. At the center, at the dark heart of the forest, was LeHorn's Hollow, source of central Pennsylvanian ghost stories and legends. Every region has such a place, and LeHorn's Hollow was ours.
An artist friend of mine once visited us from California. Tara and I took him for a walk through those same woods, maybe half a mile inside, and he said something that has always stuck with me. He said that our woods felt different. I'd scoffed at the time, reminding him that his own state had the majestic redwood forests (Tara and I had spent part of our honeymoon walking amongst the coastal redwoods, and I'd wanted to live there ever since). But he'd insisted that our small patch of forest was different.
He said it felt primordial.
After Big Steve finished watering the yard, he tugged me toward the alley, his ears perked up and tongue lolling in hopeful anticipation.
"You want to go for a walk in the woods? You want to sniff for some bunnies?"
He wagged his tail with enthusiastic confirmation and tilted his head to the side.
"Come on, then." I grinned. His mood was infectious. It was impossible to feel anything other than good that morning.
He put his nose to the ground and led me forward. Shelly Carpenter jogged by on her regular morning run just as we reached the edge of the alley. Her red hair jiggled with each step. So did the rest of her. I didn't know Shelly well, but we usually made small talk every morning as we passed by each other.
"Hey, Adam," she panted, running in place. "Hi, Stevie!"
Big Steve wagged the tip of his tail and darted between my legs.
"Oh, come on, Stevie." She turned off her iPod and removed her headphones. "Don't be shy! You know me."
Big Steve's tail thumped harder, confirming that yes, he did indeed know her, but he shrank away further.
Shelly laughed. "God, he's such a fraidy-cat."
"Yeah, he is. Runs from his own shadow. We got him from the pound, and we think that his previous owner may have beaten him or something."
Her brow creased. "That's so sad. What's wrong with some people?"
I nodded. "Yeah, people like that should be shot. You out for your morning jog?"
"You know it. Isn't it beautiful today?"
"It sure is. Spring is finally here."
She looked up at the sun and squinted. "Spring is my favorite time of year."
Her thin T-shirt was damp with sweat, and it clung to her bouncing breasts, revealing perfection. Her pert, dime-sized nipples strained against the fabric, hinting at the dark areolas beneath. Before she could catch me leering, I looked down. Big mistake. Her gray sweatpants had ridden up, hugging her crotch like a second skin. They too were wet with perspiration.
I quickly glanced back up. Shelly was staring at me with an odd expression.
"You okay, Adam?" She arched her eyebrows.
I cleared my throat. "Yeah. Sure. I was just thinking about my deadline."
"Seems like you're always daydreaming."
"That's the way it is with writers."
"How's the next book coming?"
"Good." I smiled and bent down to pet Big Steve. Mistake number two. My face was inches from her groin. I imagined that I could smell her sweat-and something else. Something intoxicating. The scent of a woman.
What the hell was wrong with me? It was like spring fever had turned me into a horn dog or something. My reactions were uncharacteristic, and I felt embarrassed.
Shelly placed a hand on her hip and arched her back. "What's it going to be?"
I jumped. "W-what?"
"The book." Her breasts bounced up and down as she began jogging in place again. "What's it going to be about? Another mystery?"
"I'm not sure yet, actually. Maybe a Civil War novel, but I don't know. Still working it out in my head. Whatever it turns out to be, it's going to be big."
"Big is good." She licked her lips. Her glistening tongue looked so inviting.
I found myself wondering if she was aware that she was doing it. Her eyes seemed to glaze over, and she moved closer to me. Big Steve shifted nervously between my legs.
I cleared my throat again, breaking the spell.
"Well," Shelly said, "I'd better let you get back to work, then. See you. Tell Tara that I said hi."
"Okay. Will do. See you later."
Shelly put her headphones back on, raised her hand and waved, and then blew Big Steve a kiss. We stared after her as she jogged down the alley and crossed over into the park. I watched her perfect ass moving beneath her sweatpants. Then she vanished from sight. The next time I saw that ass was when she was on her knees in front of the hairy man.
Big Steve panted heavily, then turned around and licked his balls.
I knew how he felt. My own erection strained uncomfortably against my jeans. Shuffling from one foot to another, I made sure nobody was watching. Then I reached down inside my pants and readjusted.
I took a deep breath, trying to stave off the guilt that welled up inside me. I'd never cheated on Tara, but the opportunities were there. The bigger my career got, the more of them there seemed to be. Not dozens of them, at least not yet. But there were several women who'd brought bourbon and crotchless panties to my book signings, or asked me to sign their breasts with Magic Marker. They sent me e-mails telling me how much my writing turned them on. Genre groupies. It was flattering and tempting and great for selling books. But it was surprising too, especially considering my modest success. I often wondered if it would get worse the bigger I got.
The thing I was most afraid of was myself-my own libido. Tara's moratorium on sex affected me more than I let on. Yes, I loved her, but it was also a huge factor in our lives. I worried sometimes about cheating on her, was afraid that one day my traitorous libido would push me into it.
But I'd never done anything. And my erotic overreaction to Shelly's workout attire left me feeling puzzled and guilty, as did her uncharacteristic flirting-if that was what it was. Had she really flirted, or was it my imagination?
I was pretty sure I'd read the situation correctly.
At the time I dismissed it all. Just something in the air. Spring fever, maybe.
But now I know just how right I was. There was something in the air-music and magic-and it affected us both.
Big Steve strained against his leash, urging me forward. We crossed the alley and walked into the field, heading in the same general direction that Shelly had gone. The grass was wet with dew. Steve put his nose to the ground, catching a scent. He started tracking.
In the oak tree's branches two squirrels began humping away, celebrating the season by making babies.
I wondered if Tara and I would ever have a baby. Then I thought of the last miscarriage. Sadness welled up inside me, and I fought back sudden and surprising tears.
Steve tugged at the leash, chasing the bad memories away like the good dog that he was.
We walked on. The wet grass soaked my shoes and his paws. I took us around the playground. It wouldn't do to have the neighborhood children come flying down the slide and land in a pile of dog shit. As if reading my mind, Big Steve dutifully dropped a pile in the grass. Wincing at the smell, I turned my nose away. The dog wagged his tail, and it seemed like he was grinning. Then we moved along.
The neighborhood came to life around us. Paul Legerski's black Chevy Suburban roared down the alley, with Flotsam and Jetsam's "Liquid Noose" blasting from the speakers. An oldie but a goodie. Paul had the bass turned up loud, just like the high school kids who did the same thing with their hip-hop. He blew the horn and waved, and I waved back. Paul and his wife, Shannon, were good people. One of my next-door neighbors, Merle, tried to start his lawn mower. It sputtered, stalled, and then sputtered again. Merle's curses were loud and clear, and I chuckled. Then I heard the hiss of running water as another of my neighbors, Dale Haubner, a retiree, turned on his garden hose. A flock of geese flew overhead, honking out their springtime return from Southern climates. Honeybees buzzed in the clover growing next to the seesaw.
But beneath all of these familiar noises was another sound. At first I thought I'd imagined it. But Big Steve's ears were up and his head cocked. He'd heard it too.
As we stood there it came again-a high, melodic piping. It sounded like a flute. Just a few short, random notes, and then they faded away on the breeze and weren't repeated. I looked around to see if Shelly had heard it, but she was gone, as if the woods had swallowed her up.
In a way, I guess that was what happened.
The musical piping drifted toward us again, faint but clear. I became aroused again, and dimly wondered why. Shelly was gone, and there was nobody else in sight. I hadn't been thinking about sex. It was weird.
Excerpted from Dark Hollow by Brian Keene Copyright © 2008 by Brian Keene . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Brian Keene is a two-time winner and four-time finalist of the Bram Stoker Award. The author of more than twelve novels to date, he has been published by Dorchester, Random House and Marvel. He is the former fiction editor of www.horrorfind.com, former organizer of the annual Horrorfind Weekend as well as founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Jobs in Hell.
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If you like horror and suspense and reading how books are written then this will be a double treat. The main hero, Adam Senft is a decently successful writer who decided to give up his other job to write that great story that would be his ticked to solidified fame. With his wife Tara he settles into a quiet lifestyle in a home in Pennsylvania. His wife carrying the burden of commuting to work gave him time to sit back, enjoy the quiet, walk the dog and write those hot selling books. Little does he know but that peace is shattered with the arrival of spring. From the very first page the story hits off and then drops the reader back on Earth to catch up. Adam finds his neighbor, an attractive female involved in some strange activity in the LeHorn woods. Embarrassed and freaked out he starts a chain of events that brings upon him strange lust, bad luck and a horrific creature that is after every wife in town. When people start to disappear and those left act strangely little time is left before Adam's wife and his entire life is thrown into a well of chaos. Along with his friends he must get to the bottom of a mysterious nemesis that shakes his reality and to defend his territory from a menacing male - something.
Brian Keene surprised me this time, I didn't particularly like "The Conqueror Worms" and after reading it I was afraid that his style was set in stone; that another story would have random additives and would be scattered, but not so with "Dark Hollow". Was it literary genius? No, but it was darn addictive and enjoyable, it did what a good, gripping fiction book should - it enchanted the reader and gave satisfaction for reading it. I felt my teeth sink into the story until I absorbed its contents. It took me in and hardly ever stopped being great. The reason for 4 stars versus 5 ( since I am gushing about it ) is really simple; as I get older I get little tougher when I judge a book, and really only give 5 stars when it stirs my guts with a stick and makes me obsessed with what I just read - hard task, so 4 stars is not too shabby, trust me. Some of my favorite parts were reading about Adam's preparations and how he did his writing, it felt real and was such a treat.
Before I finish I must just say how proud I am of Keene for making this book steamy; he was very liberal with all sorts of naughty scenarios and wrote his book fulfilling his fantasies about just putting out that salty novel out there into the world. I saw no holding back and hopefully he can always write like this, but obviously only when necessary to the plot, gratuitous use of sex is plain fake, when the story doesn't scream for it; don't include it to avoid embarrassment- unless you're Richard Laymon. He was the king of lascivious books - at least to me and it's hard to knock him of that throne in my head. Like Laymon, Keene tapped into that channel and produced a decent read; I really enjoyed it tremendously and will try to read his other works. I know I criticized him heavily in my last review so I am trying to redeem myself, but it feels right only because this book deserved it. Fun, raunchy and actually interesting, good change from the usual gore and bloody horror, I read it on the bus, after dinner and then in bed; it was good stuff.
- Kasia S.
I found The Conquerer Worms disappointing so it took me a while to pick up Dark Hollow by Brian Keene. And once again I¿m disappointed, but this time it¿s because I put it off reading this book for so long. Dark Hollow is the tale of a small town in Pennsylvania, once a farming community, now home to Adam, a midlist mystery writer, his wife and their dog. But their town is also home to something else, an other-worldly creature, summoned long ago and finally awakened again with the first day of spring. Dark Hollow is a very compelling tale. Sure there¿s a monster in woods, and some creepy carnivorous demon trees, but the real horror is in the effect the events of the story have on the characters, particularly Adam and his wife. Keene is able to drive a man¿s loyalty into very dangerous places, pitting his own nature against his ideals. The conflict made Dark Hollow hard to put down and held up through the very last line. It¿s easily my favorite Keene work so far. While it counts as horror, there¿s less gore and violence and far more dread and conflict, which is exactly why Keene seems ready to cross the line into a position rare for a horror author¿mainstream acceptance.
This was the best book that I have ever read hands down. Brian Keene knows how to grab the readers attention and keep it. I liked this book so much that I have passed it to friends and family who have said the same thing and then passed it on to another. Brian Keene is my favorite and I can not wait to read what he has in store for his future titles. If you read this book you will not be dissappointed. I give it five stars and two thumbs up.
Keene is rapidly establishing himself as a major force in contemporary horror, and this new book is compelling proof of his talent. Populated by empathetic and complex characters living in a disturbingly 'real' environment, Dark Hollow spins a tale of supernatural horror that will keep you turning pages late into the night. Strongly recommended.
In LeHorn¿s Hollow, novelist Adam Senft hears strange music that sounds like a piper playing the pipes coming from the nearby woods late at night. He follows the sound only to see his naked neighbor ¿dancing¿ with a statue that is moving. Adam is stunned although he knows the legends of the haunting as claimed by Native Americans. Although tempted to strip and join in the romp, Adam flees.----------------- The libidos of the men are out of control as their sex drive suddenly supersedes all other needs including subsistence and shelter. They take what they obsessively desire until overnight the women vanish. Already reeling with what he saw and what is happening to the townsfolk Adam wonders just what is the frolicking statue playing an instrument while his nude friend pranced in some sort of bondage and if that animated stone is behind the strange things happening to those living in LeHorn¿s Hollow.---------------- Readers will know early on just what is behind the terror gripping this small isolated town, but knowing does not take away from a strong horror thriller. The story line is fast-paced as the men go sexually berserk and the women vanish all the work of a supernatural creature summoned from beyond. Although the ending is abrupt, Brian Keene continues to showcase the width of his talent (see DEAD SEA) as he provides an entertaining thriller.---------- Harriet Klausner