A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter

Overview

From the bestselling author of Ghost Story, Shadowland, and The Talisman, a novella-length rumination on the nature of evil.A Special Place, Peter Straub?s first published novella, will come to stand as one of the author?s most deeply unsettling works of fiction. A rumination on the nature of evil, the story centers on a boy, Keith Hayward, who is drawn by his nature to an irresistible fascination with death and the taking of life. His father?s brother, the good-looking, suave Uncle Till?the infamous ladykiller, ...
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Overview

From the bestselling author of Ghost Story, Shadowland, and The Talisman, a novella-length rumination on the nature of evil.A Special Place, Peter Straub’s first published novella, will come to stand as one of the author’s most deeply unsettling works of fiction. A rumination on the nature of evil, the story centers on a boy, Keith Hayward, who is drawn by his nature to an irresistible fascination with death and the taking of life. His father’s brother, the good-looking, suave Uncle Till—the infamous ladykiller, who has led a shadowy career as a local celebrity—recognizes his nephew’s innermost nature and gleefully tutors him in art of doing ill without getting caught.
Even a cold-blooded sociopath must learn some lessons in survival, in seems, and Uncle Till is only happy to provide a tutorial, in the latest imaginative and disturbing work from one of America's most celebrated horror writers.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Creepy to the core, this novella shines a terrible light on the backstory of Straub's acclaimed A Dark Matter (2010). Young Keith Hayward idolizes his charming, charismatic Uncle Till. When Keith's mother asks Till to talk to Keith after the boy is found dismembering a dead cat, Till recognizes a kindred spirit and begins to instruct Keith on smart, secret ways to pursue his evil endeavors. As the years pass, Keith grows older and bolder in his sadistic pleasures, and when Till comes back into town, Keith finds the perfect way to impress him. Vivid but never overly graphic or grotesque, Straub's words paint horrific pictures of two depraved men. The violence is minimal, but understood in the most subtle of ways. This beautifully horrifying, delightfully disturbing tale of a family tree of evil will stay with the reader long after the last page is done. (July)
Booklist
“Straub can write circles around most of the authors topping bestseller lists these days.”
Washington Post
“Frightening. Straub can write superb horror.”
New York Daily News
“Straub is a master at creating an otherworldly type of fiction. It has earned him a fierce following.”
Stephen King
“When Peter Straub turns on all his jets, no one in the scream factory can equal him.”
Lawrence Block
“Peter Straub is a national treasure.”
Library Journal
This short but visceral read by a master of the horror genre (A Dark Matter; Ghost Story) ponders whether sociopathic behavior may be inheritable. Enthralled for years by the visits of his mysterious Uncle Till, troubled young Keith comes to recognize that he shares some unsavory characteristics with his handsome relative. Till immediately senses Keith's special needs and assures his nephew that any young man with Keith's rare and wonderful urges must discover a secret place in which to satisfy those needs. Keith's mother worries about him, but the boy is adept at diverting her concern. Part of the power of Straub's story lies in the banality of the setting and the fact that Uncle Till and his nephew might well be our neighbors. While there are no supernatural elements here, Straub effectively sustains a creepy atmosphere. The conclusion may be expected but is nevertheless unsettling. VERDICT This is high-quality disturbing horror. Recommended not only for horror fans but for those who appreciate outstanding writing.—Jonathan Pearce, California State Univ. at Stanislaus, Stockton
Kirkus Reviews
This extremely creepy and disturbing novella is either a pendant to, or, more likely, an outtake from Straub's most recent full-length novel A Dark Matter, published earlier this year. This story focuses on that book's ill-fated secondary character Keith Hayward during his adolescent years in Milwaukee. Keith's disturbing misbehavior, spurred by his non-affectionate obsession with his neighbor's pets, stirs his mother Maggie to hope her only child will benefit from the steadying influence of his frequently visiting Uncle Tillman. But, as we know from the opening pages, "Uncle Till" is a charismatic drifter whose unexplained nightly excursions have attracted the attention of local police. Nevertheless, Keith cherishes Till's counsel that a boy soon to be a man needs "a special place" to store his secrets-and the boy's "experiments" with animals take over his life. Straub sticks closely to Keith's roiling thoughts, as he enters high school, where severe acne and an aura of menacing stoicism discourage would-be bullies. No such luck for his forlorn classmate Tomek Miller, whose gratitude for Keith's "protection" knows no bounds. Soon Keith masters homosexual sadism (graphically, gratuitously described), forcing the weaker "Miller" to aid the researches he conducts in his secret room (the special place Uncle Till had urged Keith to create). Meanwhile, news reports about the reappearance of a serial murderer ("the Ladykiller") enable Keith to recognize "the meshing of two separate calendars, his uncle's and the murderer's." Keith confides his suspicions to Uncle Till, draws Miller deeper into his web, and, at Christmas, presents his mentor with the ultimate gift. The book is unquestionably an efficient nausea-inducer, but it contains many more shocks than surprises and is propelled by sexual imagery so pronounced that it usurps and dissipates the story's horror content. If this was an episode severed, so to speak, from the body of A Dark Matter, it's easy to understand why. This is very, very close to Straub at his very, very worst.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605981024
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 7/20/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Straub
Peter Straubis theNew York Timesbestselling author of seventeen novels. His two collaborations with Stephen King,The TalismanandBlack House,
were international bestsellers.In 2006, he was given the Horror
Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award. Peter and his wife live in New York City.
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    1. Hometown:
      New York City
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 2, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1965; M.A., Columbia University, 1966
    2. Website:

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2011

    Very good, but expensive.

    This is my first book of Peter Straub's and I was not dissapointed. The book is very disturbing. I, after numerous Stephen King books, is not easily unsettled by written material, i've become sort or sanitized, but this did it for me. The characters are scarily believable. Not only that but some of Straubs' ideas, such as the keys, are brilliant!

    The only thing that I find dissapointing about this book is, A) Although it is a fun read it seems to me like it is rushed, the first chapter is when he is about 9, the next is when he is a sophmore in Highschool, that's a big jump, much time lost where Peter could've added more material, just to fill that hole in his life. B) the price. I got this book at Borders when they were going out of business, I nabbed it at $3. 50, a wonderful deal. I would've never bought it at its actual retail price, $14, simply because it is much to short. If I remeber correctly the story itself is only about 120 pages long, not counting the afterword. But those 120 pages are in large print, and wide margins. So in reality I guess this book is only about 80 pages. But If I were you i'd get it from the library and stay away from the insane cost.

    If I could I'd have given this book a 4.4 out of 5.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2010

    amazing!

    I borrowed this book from a friend (she was enjoying it) and didn't expect much from it. Once I began to read, though, I was hooked. Straub intertwines deep backstories of other characters into the current, causing you to wonder the past and current ambitions of those others that create the main character's (Keith Hayward's) story. I loved "A Special Place" and can't wait to get my hands on other Straub novels!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    truly scary

    Question: What does a budding twelve year old psychopath need most?
    Answer: A blooming psychopathic uncle to be his mentor.

    And this is the premise behind Peter Straub's novella "A Special Place: the Heart of a Dark Matter". Thank goodness for short books. This truly was a dark book - I'm talking pitch, midnight, moonless black. Had it been longer, my mind and body would have rebelled. As it was, I was left feeling more than slightly nauseous at the last page. I believe this was the author's intent.

    While other people were slightly uncomfortable around Uncle Till as the story progressed, Keith simply recognized a kindred spirit. Instinctively he understood what Uncle Till was really saying. Uncle Till also recognized Keith as a younger version of himself and began to plant ideas and shed light on a path of horror for Keith to follow.

    The progression of Mr. Straub's horror story reminded me of some of Edgar Allen Poe's writings or Hitchcock's plays (which were heavily referenced in the book). It is not for the weak of heart. The ending is awful in the deepest meaning of the word and leaves an entire black career to follow in the mind of the reader.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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