Driving down a small, Midwestern two-lane highway you’ll see dozens of exits for them; tiny, quiet and sleepy towns. And, unless your car’s gas light blinks on or your engine starts to vomit smoke, you’re unlikely to visit them on your way to larger locales. However, across the U.S., many call such places home. Underneath their peaceful exterior, these microcosms have a society, gossip and culture all their own.
Light, dark, erotic, demonic and everywhere in between, Jonathan W. Thurston’s new novel “The Devil Has a Black Dog” is unafraid to bend one’s expectations of the fantasy genre and at the same time, explore the seedy underbelly of American small town life — with a large dose of the supernatural.
The story follows Titus Anderson, the product one such Michigan town who can be considered one of the town’s “Night Folk,” or what the book calls a “town loser” who stays up late into the evening and gets involved in any of the following:
“Drinking, smoking, shooting, shooting up and/or fucking. Many of these could be done at the same time. The Night Folk were a distinct minority in the town, but, when the sun set on Hollow Rapids, like moths to a flame, they swarmed the neon-lit streets, hungry to feed their addictions.”
And, just like his regular schedule would suggest, Titus is brash, unapologetic and even unlikeable at times. His existence is in direct contrast to the town’s “Church Folk” who spend their lives on a nine-to-five work schedule, with prayer before dinner and TV before bed a nightly ritual.
Still, Titus, flaws and all, is an interesting focal point, and for his differences the regular townfolk dislike him. Folded into the small town’s mix, Titus must also contend with his homosexuality, which more often than not gets him a beating with the town’s local gangs. Thurston’s novel portrays well the tensions that can arise for LGBTQ community in rural areas.
The novel joins Titus on an especially bad night. Just fired from his job, he begins the process of a routine bender. It’s on the drive home that he gets into an accident that results in his meeting a quote-loving demon. Over the next 48 hours or so, Titus will undergo confusion, a power trip and more pain than is fathomable.
One of the book’s strongest points is its inter-text animation. Following along with the protagonist’s actions, mood and even state of drunkenness, the animations start small and increase dramatically as the story’s arc progresses.
Readers looking for a fantasy novel with an artistic edge and dramatic twist shouldn’t look further than Jonathan W. Thurston’s “The Devil Has a Black Dog.”
“The Devil Has A Black Dog” is set to be published in spring 2018 by Red Ferret Press. Jonathan W. Thurston is a contributor for Between the Lines. More information about Red Ferret can be found online at facebook.com/redferretpress/ or about Thurston’s publishing company at thurstonhowlpublications.com.