Book Review: Long Black Coffin by Tim Curran

16039020  Title: Long Black Coffin
Author: Tim Curran
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Publisher: Dark Fuse Publications
Publication Date: December 18th, 2012
Goodreads | Order from Publisher
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for honest review.

The Long Black Coffin is a ’67 GTO. A street-eater and a life-taker. Like an open grave, it’s hungry for death.
Vic Tamberlyn committed suicide in it. His son Kurt asphyxiated in it. Maybe there’s no connection, but Kurt’s best friend, Johnny Breede, doesn’t believe it. He begins seeing dark connections, convinced that beneath the skin of the Coffin there beats a black, terrible heart. But it’s even worse than he can imagine.
For the Long Black Coffin has a history. And that history will lead Johnny into a web of murder, insanity, and sexual perversion. He’ll learn gruesome family secrets that connect a decade-old series of child abductions to a primordial evil that lives on in the car in the form of a sadistic teenage girl.
A girl whose mother was human, but whose father was anything but.

Long Black Coffin is a disturbing, twisted, dark fiction novel that managed to keep me up until the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, that was more due to curiosity than to actual fear, but nevertheless, I enjoyed this gem. Mr. Curran has a terrific way with words and seems to have a magical wand for lyrical prose. The story itself ranks high in originality, and the characters were fun and enjoyable, at least up to some degree. There were some tidbits here and there that annoyed me endlessly, but not enough to stop reading.

After Johnny’s best friend, Kurt, commits suicide in the same car his Dad killed himself in years prior, Johnny is left behind to pick up the pieces. Without Kurt and any real family to fall back on, his mother, Stella, is completely lost, and searches for love and support by reaching out to Johnny. But when the latter discovers something eerie in the basement of Stella’s house, he opens the door for something sinister to crawl through from the world beyond. Something is haunting Stella and her family, and somehow it’s related to the disappearance of several small children fifteen years ago. Stella starts acting strangely, utnil Johnny grows convinced she’s possessed. He discovers a tape in the basement, a tape showing Vic, Stella’s late husband, torturing a young woman. Johnny quickly jumps to conclusions about Kurt’s parents, but he may have to change his views when the girl returns from the death…

Our main character, Johnny Breede, is little more than a nobody in a town filled with nobodies. He spends his time drinking and doing drugs, and literally half of this book is filled with accounts of Johnny’s parties and interactions with people wasting their life almost as much as he is. It came up to the point I cared little or not about Johnny’s potential death – after all, he was just wasting his life away hopping from one wasted night into another. I know not every book needs a perfect protagonist, and in that sense, it was a relief to visit the opposite end of the spectrum for a change. There were little good qualities one could find in Johnny. He’s a coward, he’s incapable of truly loving anyone, and he leaves people at the first sight of trouble. When he kept leaving Kurt’s Mom alone to deal with whatever evil was harnessing power inside her home, he lost all my sympathy. He treats his sister like crap most of the time, although she’s the one who stood by him through it all. The only one he was half-decent to was Kurt, and Kurt dies very soon in the novel, so that shatters quickly. No, I didn’t like Johnny, and that actually counted for more than half of the characters passing the revue in Long Black Coffin. I somewhat liked Kurt, but like I said, quick dead, and then he’s gone. I disliked all Johnny’s party friends because they shared his attitude. Stella, Kurt’s Mom, is a mess after his death, and although I felt sympathetic toward her at first, I wasn’t so sure about that anymore as the story progressed.

I liked the story’s originality. It’s not completely original, but there were parts here and there that intrigued me and felt unique, like the involvement of Vic’s car, and the connection between the murders and the entity haunting Stella’s home. Then again, there are elements that scream ‘been there, done that’, but that are still executed nicely in the book. What I found a pity, was how quick everything happened. The tension built up as Johnny found the hidden box in the basement, but after that, everything went so far, and some things went over the top at record speed, leaving little or no tension. I didn’t even feel scared after that. Too much happened at once, and it came too fast, and it was too gruesome, too grotesque, too disproportional for me to be scared anymore. Also, the constant references to sex, sexual depravity, SM and other, much worse things, made me feel sick to the stomach rather than frightened. Johnny discovers a videotape at some point in the book, showing how Vic humiliates and sexually tortures a young woman. The videotape is so bad Johnny can’t even watch it, and Johnny seems pretty messed up in that department himself. Having to read through that, I felt nothing but nausea. Even when it’s explained later on, I thought the link between why the girl enjoyed being hit hard, until she bled, and the reason behind it, very weak, and the story could’ve done well without. Maybe these elements were added to shock the reader, but trust me, with all the gore and death in this book already, it didn’t need anymore shock factor.

That said, at times I did very much enjoy reading this book. There were elements of surprise here and there, and I loved how the author often hinted at the solution, but didn’t reveal anything until the end. Most of what I mentioned I didn’t like here are very personal things as well. I’m not a big fan of adding sexual depravity everywhere. I didn’t get it in The Exorcist, I didn’t get it here either. Why would demons feed on humanity’s supposed repressed sexuality? I think adding these elements to show the darker side of humanity might work in some cases, but then it needs to be the focus, not a side-thought just to make matters worse than they already are. I absolutely hated Johnny for bailing on Stella when she needed him the most, and I found the backstory of the evil thing threatening town intriguing, although maybe a bit much at times. Throw everything bad you can possibly imagine in one person or creature, and you come up with this thing. Not the most subtle of horror stories, but a nice read, once you look past the sex and gore.

Speak Your Mind