Written by: Bentley Little
Reviewed by: Joe Bones
Personally, I consider Bentley Little a modern day H.P. Lovecraft. His stories feature every-man characters and contain elements of eldritch horror. The intensity of dread that Little creates is increased by his inclusion of highly sexualized, often violent, incidents. Yet, these moments never feel gratuitous. Rather they help to ground the plot and add realism to stories focused on the unknown. Little is a master at taking the mundane, and making it terrifying. In The Influence he gives small town life his signature horror treatment.
Where Lovecraft had Boston, Little tends to set his stories in the American Southwest. This is the case in The Influence, which takes place in rural Arizona. The story begins with Ross, the main character, moving to the ranching community of Magdalena to live with his cousin Lita and her husband. Just as Ross begins to adapt to life in a small town, odd occurrences break up his newfound peace of mind. The townspeople each find a reversal in their luck. The successful find themselves struggling, and the lives of the poor begin to improve. Then strange creatures begin to appear and the tension ramps up, concluding in a battle for the fate of the town.
It may not be the most original concept, but Little puts his own spin on what would otherwise be a familiar story. I had a bit of trouble keeping all the minor characters straight but the main characters are relatable, and their plight is compelling. I found myself rooting for Ross to succeed even before he faces the macabre elements plaguing Magdalena. I found the strategy Ross eventually uses to try and combat the mysterious force taking over the town to be a very clever twist, one that further distinguishes this story from other, similar novels.
Although The Influence isn’t the best novel I’ve read by Little, it is very entertaining. The thrilling storyline will keep your attention, even when the pace of the narrative slows down. For anyone who has never read any of Little’s work, this novel is a good place to start. It will give you a feel for his writing style and a peek into his vision of horror. Then, if you like the novel, you have the rest of his novels to look forward to reading.