In the mountains of East Tennessee lies the town of Elders Keep. Things aren't exactly right in the Keep, and as the town heads towards the holiday season, the evil force that lives within the woods comes pulsing to the forefront. It's all downhill to New Years, and no one in the Keep is safe. This collection of eight short stories is your invitation to join the citizens of Elders Keep as they make their way through a harrowing holiday season. Only the dark and twisted mind of Jeffery X Martin could create a town where humor and terror live side by side in such harmonious agony. Welcome to Elders Keep. If you lived here, you'd be dead by now. (from the Amazon description)
Full disclosure; I've known Jeff Martin since I was eighteen, therefore I have known him longer than I care to reveal. It's been a really long time. We used to haunt the same open mic at a bar called Manhattan's in Knoxville TN's Old City neighborhood. He was probably more influential and helpful to me in growing as a writer than he knows. I could go on and on about all the late night talks and the whack job characters we hung out with, but I'll spare you, dear reader, that tumble down fuzzy-memory lane. After all, this is a review. I wanted to be upfront though; I know this cat. He's a friend. Fortunately my natural bias is reinforced by the fact that Black Friday is an absolute great damn book.
For those who read the line 'In the mountains of East Tennessee' and immediately heard dueling banjos let me point out that Tennessee is the proper South and not the deep South. Much of anything inhabitable in the mountains has been or will be yuppified and at times clash with the more traditional or hillbilly ways and Jeff captures this aesthetic of the modern South with pitch perfect clarity, crafting a rich and deep world. Not to say that those of you who like a little Southern fried redneck scariness won't find plenty to chew on! Jeff writes with a smooth and infectious groove. As much a musician as he is an author, Jeff gave Black Friday a rhythm that is ancient and pagan making each chapter a sort of ritual that you experience in your nerves. The depth of the stories and the diverse cast of characters kept me feverishly turning the page, devouring each story.
Jeff wields the tools of a horror craftsman as he guides us through the downward spiraling, Dante-esque saga of the people of Elders Keep and along the way offers a biting commentary about modern society. A simple drink with a lover or an old friend, a trip to the dentist or the store, a night out at the club or a talk with mom is an opportunity for ghosts and monsters to plunge you into bloody terror. Elders Keep doesn't need ghosts and monsters to scare the crap out of you though. The regular inhabitants can be just as fucked up as anything your nightmares can cook up. The stories "Be Sweet" and "Mouth" genuinely made me cringe.
It was painful to make it to the last story, because I did not want the book to end. Black Friday satisfied on all levels. Get this book now!
And follow Jeff on Twitter @JefferyXMartin and at www.facebook.com/elderskeep. He also writes a kick ass music column for www.popshifter.com