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Mr. Shivers

Mr. Shivers

3.4 49
by Robert Jackson Bennett

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It is the time of the Great Depression.

Thousands have left their homes looking for a better life, a new life. But Marcus Connelly is not one of them. He searches for one thing, and one thing only: Revenge.

Because out there, riding the rails, stalking the camps, is the scarred vagrant who murdered Connelly's daughter.

One man must face a dark truth and


It is the time of the Great Depression.

Thousands have left their homes looking for a better life, a new life. But Marcus Connelly is not one of them. He searches for one thing, and one thing only: Revenge.

Because out there, riding the rails, stalking the camps, is the scarred vagrant who murdered Connelly's daughter.

One man must face a dark truth and answer the question - how much is he willing to sacrifice for his satisfaction?

Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
If you enjoy dark thrillers, and can stand several pages of sustained and anatomically graphic violence, Mr. Shivers will see you through a cold February evening…one must congratulate Robert James Bennett for his convincingly bleak setting and for the creation of Mr. Shivers, "the Harvester," "the Skullsie Man," "the Grinning Bone Dancer." You don't want to meet him—unless your name is Connelly.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Set during the Great Depression and reading like a collaboration between Stephen King and John Steinbeck, this remarkably assured first novel relates a good man’s desperate travels through the ruins of the American heartland on the trail of his child’s murderer. As he tracks the eponymous fiend, Marcus Connelly discovers that he’s not the only person whose life the killer has ruined. The Dust Bowl refugees pursuing Mr. Shivers gradually realize that he embodies an elemental force of destruction, and they begin sacrificing their own humanity for the sake of vengeance. The everyday horrors of a deserted, drought-blighted countryside are interrupted by frightening dreams and fragments of disturbing superstitions as Bennett’s characters try to articulate what’s happening and imagine a way back home. Bennett makes dark fantasy feel like gritty realism, achieving a rare laconic eloquence that will captivate horror readers hungry for new voices. (Feb.)
Library Journal
It begins simply. A grieving father chases the killer of his daughter across the Dust Bowl, finding allies and enemies along the way. Soon, though, it seems that the killer is more than human, and as the story gains momentum, it passes through layers of supernatural and psychological horror and enters the realm of myth. The ending is predictable, but the protagonist has no idea, and there's a savage joy in watching him rush headlong to his fate. VERDICT Readers who liked Neil Gaiman's American Gods will find similar themes here, while the setting and bleak inevitability invoke a more readable Cormac McCarthy. Compelling and truly horrifying, this debut novel is highly recommended for all fiction and horror collections.—Karl G. Siewert, Tulsa City-Cty. Lib.

Product Details

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7.00(w) x 11.06(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

Mr. Shivers

By Bennett, Robert Jackson


Copyright © 2010 Bennett, Robert Jackson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316054690


By the time the number nineteen crossed the Missouri state line the sun had crawled low in the sky and afternoon was fading into evening. The train had built up a wild head of steam over the last few miles. As Tennessee fell behind, it began picking up speed, the wheels chanting and chuckling, the fields blurring into jaundice-yellow streaks by the track. A fresh gout of black smoke unfurled from the train’s crown and folded back to clutch the cars like a great black cloak.

Connelly shut his eyes as the wave of smoke flew toward him and held on tighter to the side of the cattle car. He wasn’t sure how long he had been hanging there. Maybe a half hour. Maybe more. The crook of his arm was curled around one splintered slat of wood and he had wedged his boots into the cracks below. Every joint in his body ached.

He squinted through the tumble of train smoke at the other three men. They hung on, faces impassive. One of them called to the oldest, asking if it was soon. He grinned and shook his head and laughed.

Ten miles on Connelly felt the train begin to slow and the countryside started to take shape around him. The fields all seemed the same, nothing but cracked red earth and crooked fencing. Sometimes there were men working in the fields, overalled and with faces as beaten as the land. They watched the train’s furious procession with a country boy’s awe. Some laughed and called to them. Most did not and watched their coming and going with almost no acknowledgment at all.

The old man before him hitched himself low on the train, eyes watching the wheels as one would a predator. He held up three fingers, waved. Then two. Then one, and he dropped from the side of the train.

Connelly followed suit and as he rolled he saw the churning wheels no more than three feet from him, hissing and cackling. He slid away until he came to rest in a ditch with the others. They stood and beat the dust and grit and soot from their faces. Then they crouched low in the weeds and waited until the train’s passage was marked only by a ribbon of black smoke and a roar hovering in the sky.

“Think they coming back?” whispered one of the young ones. “Coming back to look for us?”

“Boy, what are you, an idiot?” said the old man. “No train man is going to double back looking for trouble. If we’re off then we’re off. Done.”


“Yeah. Count your limbs and teeth and start using your feet. Maybe your head, too, if you feel like it.” He scratched his gray hair and grinned, flashing a crooked mouthful of yellowed teeth.

They shouldered their packs and began heading west, following the tracks.

“Should have held on longer,” said one of the men.

“Ha,” said the grayhair. “If you did that then I guarantee you wouldn’t be looking so hale and hearty right now. Don’t want to get caught, caught by the freight boss. He’d whale you raw.”

“Not with him, I’d reckon,” the man said, nodding toward Connelly, who was a head taller than the others. “What’s your name?”

“Connelly,” he said.

“You got any tobacco?”

Connelly shook his head.

“You sure?”


“Hm,” he said, and spat. “Still think we should’ve held on longer.”

They took up upon an old county road. As they walked they kicked up a cloud of dust that rose to their faces, turning their soot-gray clothes to raw red. The land on either side was patched like a stray’s coat, the hills dotted with corn lying flat as though it had been laid low by some blast. Roots lay half submerged in the loose soil, fine curling tendrils grasping at nothing. In some places growth still clung to the earth and men grouped around these spots to pump life into their crop. As Connelly passed they looked up with frightened, brittle eyes and he knew it would not last.

The two younger men paced ahead and one said, “Why don’t these dumb sons of bitches leave?”

“Where they going to go?” asked the other.

“Anywhere’s better than here.”

“Looks like home to me. This seems to be my anywhere and it ain’t much better.”

“Things’ll turn different in Rennah,” the other said. “You just watch.”

The grayhair dropped back beside Connelly. “You headed to the same place? Rennah, you headed there?”

Connelly nodded.

The grayhair shook his head, swatted the back of his neck with his hat. “Your funeral. Nothing going to be there, you know that?” He leaned closer to confide a whisper. “These fellas is just suckers. They flipped that ride ’cause they heard there’s work here, but there ain’t. Further down the line, I say. Maybe south, maybe west. Eh?”

“Not going for work,” said Connelly.

“What? What the hell you going for, then?”

Connelly bowed his head and pulled his cap low. The old man let him be.

The sun turned a deep, sick red as it sank toward the earth. Even the sky had a faint tinge of red. It made a strange, hellish sight. It was the drought, everyone said. Threw dirt up into the sky. Touched the heavens with it. Connelly was not so sure but could not say why. Perhaps it was something else. Some superficial symptom of a greater disease.

He counted the days as he walked and guessed it had been more than two weeks since he had left Memphis. Then he counted his dollars and reckoned he had spent a little over three. He was spending at far too high of a rate if he wanted to go much farther. And he would have to go farther. The man had a week’s head start on him at least. It was unlikely that he’d even be in Rennah. But he had been there once and that was all Connelly needed.

Closer, he said to himself. I’m close. I’m very close now.

“Town’s up that way,” said one of the men, pointing to a few lines of smoke on the horizon.

The old man eyed the spindle-like lines twisting across the sunset. “That ain’t the town,” he said.


“No. Those are campfires.”

The men looked at each other again, this time worried. Connelly was not surprised. He knew they had expected it, whether they said so or not. For many it was the same as the town they had just left.

Connelly caught its scent before he saw it. He smelled rotten kindling and greasy fires and cigarette smoke, excrement and foul water. It was a plague-stink, a battlefield-reek. Then he heard the cacophony of dogs barking and children crying, a junkyard song of pots and pans and old engine parts and drunken melodies. Then finally it came into view. They shaded their eyes and looked at the encampment before them, saw jalopies lurching between canyons of shuddering tents, people small as dots milling beside them. A wide smear of gray and black among the white-gold of the fields. There had to be at least a hundred people there. At least.

“Jesus,” said one of the men.

“Yeah,” said another.

“Can’t see there being much work here.”

“I reckon not, no.”

“Told you so,” said the grayhair softly. “Told you so.”

Connelly and the men parted ways as they approached. The men walked on and came to the camp’s ragged border. Some of the people had tents and some had cars and some had nothing at all but still mingled around these tattered constructs like refuse caught washing downstream. They watched the new strangers approach, too tired to hold any real resentment. The men split up and wandered in and were caught among the webs of the encampment, filtering through the grubby people to find some spot to sit in or a fire to stand by. They sat and made talk and waited for night and the following dawn. By now it was routine.

Connelly did not join them. He walked around the camp and into town.


Excerpted from Mr. Shivers by Bennett, Robert Jackson Copyright © 2010 by Bennett, Robert Jackson. 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

Robert Jackson Bennett was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, the Sydney J. Bounds Award, and an Edgar Award, he is the author of the novels Mr. Shivers, The Company Man, The Troupe, and American Elsewhere. Find out more about the author at www.robertjacksonbennett.com.

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Mr. Shivers 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
During the Great Depression, Marcus Connelly lives for one thing only. Vengeance! He stalks the killer of his beloved daughter Mr. Shivers. Everyone in the homeless camps and on the rails knows of this serial killing fiend, but none alive know who he is. As Marcus gets closer to his target while the Dust Bowl grows, he will find nothing is quite what it seems. He is beginning to understand simply killing a mortal murderer is not what will Happen. Mr. Shivers is much more lethal if Marcus believes the proof he has gathered about this killing machine is true. He also wonders if his grief has painted a super unnatural hell spawn from an amoral predator. This historical horror tale will grip readers from the clever set up, through the switch from cat and mouse suspense into the paranormal, to the fabulous climax. The key throughout the super story line is the grim setting as the rails and the Dust Bowl are depressing and lonely in a stark environment even before the audience realizes Mr. Shivers is something besides a psychopathic serial killer. Robert Jackson Bennett sends shivers up and down the spine of this deep Depression Era thriller. Harriet Klausner
jljofficepro More than 1 year ago
This book had me enthrealled right up to the very last page. Sadly, however, when I closed the book, I was saying out loud, huh?" Bennett writes the Great Depression as few can with it's bleak, dusty lonliness and the kind of deperation that only that level of hopelessness can create. I found myself engulfed in the Connelley's world of grief and hope and rooting for the rag-tag band of do-gooders to prevail against the evil they chase. My only disappointment was the ending but I truly hope that my assessment does not discourage anyone from picking up the book ans reading. It is well written and engrossing. I would easily pick up another book by this author.
NookGirlPA More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it to others. I didn't think it was as scary as some of the other reviewers thought. I didn't get any "shivers" reading it. But I'm still glad I bought it to add to my library.
MsKazoo More than 1 year ago
Turn of the century scare the bugebees outa ya! This is GREAT stuff! Mr. Shivers is out to get ya, but he already has everyone else or did you already figure that part out? Hobos, train jumping, transient camps around fire barrels to keep warm whispering about Mr. Shivers...... who is he, where is he?? Watch out! He might get you!!! GREAT beginning, middle & ending!!! So, do you think the good guy wins in the end?? Run to the store to get this book & find out....... BUT no promises on who wins in the end........... enjoy!
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