"Winward" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Shadow Work Publishing
Written by Chad A. Clark
2018, 152 pages, Fiction
Released on April 18th, 2018
If you’re looking for a short and gripping read which keeps you dangling on the hook for a couple of hours, then Chad A Clark’s Winward is worth taking a pop on. It’s one of those novellas best read in a single 150-page sitting and afterwards you’ll be wondering where the evening disappeared to. I’ve read other stuff by this author and I’ve picked up on his terrific endings. This latest tightly told story of a normal couple in peril keeps up that tradition right into its final moments. Clark’s intense horror/thriller novella does not feature the supernatural unlike much of his other writings; however, this author is equally proficient in tackling the horror and evil which comes from man.
It all begins innocently enough; Wendy and Rubin are travelling to visit old friends in a remote part of Colorado, a small town called Winward. They haven’t seen this couple for a while and think a break might help them with some minor marriage problems. However, once they finally arrive at their destination, they find the door suspiciously ajar. Thinking something is up, they enter the house and find one of their old friends shot dead in the upstairs bathtub. To reveal any more of the plot would provide unnecessary spoilers, but Wendy and Rubin’s problems are just about to begin are only beginning.
This fast-paced punchy novella really whistles along after the discovery of the first corpse and it is exceptionally easy to read. The few main characters are sketchily drawn with minimal backstories; this style this works well though, as when the action starts, it’s unrelenting and simply described. Both Wendy and Rubin are normal, everyday, law-abiding citizens and when things start to go south their helplessness is palpitatingly real and you feel their isolation and panic as everyday boundaries disappear. They’re trapped in the middle of nowhere, the town seems mysteriously deserted and things get even stranger when they stumble upon an abandoned diner. What’s going on? Clark holds back on the bloody violence and in some ways that makes everything else seem more realistic and amplified when it does happen. For instance, in a seemingly every day normal situation, a sudden slap on the face comes across as particularly shocking.
Trooper Daniels, who is the third main character, is unrelentingly brutal and a real scene stealer. Before long, his presence begins to dominate the novella and it slowly dawns on the couple what they are up against. One could argue we do not find out enough about this pivotal figure, on the other hand the author does explain his reasoning for this in his thorough endnotes. I would still have liked to know more though. Other characters appear, and the author continues in drawing them lightly, keeping the plot firmly centred in the now with all the action taking place over a single night.
The sleepy rural town of Winward is a perfect location for a thriller, although it is not large, it is geographically widely spread out, and there are few places or people for the two visitors to turn to once their problems begin to mount. The author’s description of Colorado is of wide open spaces, plains and emptiness, at the same time this location is perfect for a prowler stalking their prey with the victim stuck in the glare of the headlights. However, I did wonder how plausible it is for the story to play out the way it does, especially with mobile phones and other technology easily to hand, but I was happy enough to go with the flow of the plot.
The horror genre is blessed with a seemingly endless conveyer-belt of quality novellas these days and Chad A Clark has created a simply-told tale, that is a quality blend of horror and thriller which sits comfortably on the top tier.