Kealan Patrick Burke is an author that has received acclaim in the horror genre but who did not appeal to me when I read his works in the past. Among the books I had read was “Midlisters” which I had found to be lackluster and relatively uninteresting. Since several years have passed, I thought I would give the novella another read to see if my opinion has changed over the years.
“Midlisters” is the story of John Tennant. As a horror novelist, he has found a niche with his writing but he will never be at the top of his genre. In a word, he is a midlister. When John begins to suspect that his wife is having an affair, he picks up a book she was reading by an author named Kent Grey who writes erotic science fiction. John begins to obsess more over his wife’s (imaginary?) affair and Kent Grey becomes an object of obsession as well. While John hates the story, he envies Grey’s talnet with words and envisions his wife wanting Grey instead of him.
When John gets an invitation to be a guest of honor at a convention, he happily accepts. While driving to the convention, he gets a flat tire and picks up a hitchhiker that is going to the convention to see Kent Grey. Then John meets Grey at the convention and hi finds him to be a sad, little man. As John begins to question his perceptions, tragedy patterned after one of John’s books strikes the convention when a man is murdered. Faced with an aftermath of olice and reporters questioning him, a lifetime of repressed emotions surges forward and leaves John wrestling with his sanity.
I started this review by stating that I had read the novella before and did not care for it. Well, on second reading, I have to say that I liked the story. It was good, not great, and written with a skill that I can appreciate. The story is told skillfully and the tension (more so than terror) is subtle and almost an underlying theme that I think can make the story a hit or miss experience. I think that this is a book that needs to be read in a leisurely fashion rather than rushed through or the subtleties will be lost. Maybe my fiurst reading came before picking up a book I had been anticipating and I figured I would get through a short book first. I do not remember. I can say, however, that I will definitely give Burke’s work a closer look after reading “Midlisters” a second time and I wouls urge anyone to try this novella. It is short so it will not take up too much of a time investment buy you may find your eyes opened up to the work of a new author.