Book name: Willow Man
Author: John Inman
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 2015
John Inman is a Lambda Literary Award finalist and the author of over thirty novels.
Woody Stiles hasn't been home to San Diego since Willow Man murdered his parents. In the meantime, he's established himself as a singer and guitarist of real talent and is making a living of sorts from touring the country.
He's certainly doing better since he kicked his meth habit. But love has proved elusive, and he's never faced down the monster that destroyed his home life when he was still a teenager.
Then his agent books him a stint at a local bar, and he finds himself driving homewards full of trepidation.
Back in the very place where Willow Man killed his family, Woody is also forced to confront the fact that his teenage boyfriend Bobby was killed by the same mysterious figure that dwells deep in the woods.
He reunites with the rest of their childhood gang of buddies, and they ready themselves for the final showdown.
Willow Man is almost entirely Woody's story, with only a few scenes provided in other characters' points of view.
Greater variety is supplied because the narrative is told half in the present day and half back when Woody and the others were teenagers.
Thus Bobby's murder at the hands of Willow Man is shown directly, and the trauma the kids went through discovering the existence of their foe provides a second plot strand. The action is very powerful indeed.
The strength of Willow Man was really the portrayal of the teenagers' personalities and interactions. That tone was retained during their reunion, proving that when you fall back in company with your childhood best friends it is as if you've never been apart.
The horror element was pretty nasty, but in a good way that simply proves this was a cracking tale with plenty of bloodthirstiness to go round. The backstory made the villain even more terrifying, and certainly no more likeable, for giving the reader a glimpse inside Willow Man's head.
The treatment of the villain was imaginative and original. There aren't too many stories that go entirely outside the boxes we create in delineating sub-genres within horror, but instead try something fresh and different. This aspect was particularly well done.
As dramatic premises go Willow Man was stuffed full of potential, and John Inman didn't disappoint.
The romance element felt a little swift on the delivery, but this is quite a short novel and it's horror not romance. Hence the personal side had more of a 'passing moment' feel to it that was fine.
I enjoyed Willow Man by John Inman very much and would certainly recommend it.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Texts from Jane Eyre by Daniel M Ortberg here.