Recent appearances in horror film and literature of the Native American wendigo have paved a welcoming path for The Easton Falls Massacre. Co-written by Holly Rae Garcia and Ryan Prentice Garcia, the tale is a contemporary interpretation of the Dzunukwa, the Kwakiutl legend that also appears in Chinook tradition as Sasquatch. Easton Falls in a good old-fashioned monster story, and it establishes its ominous mood right from the beginning, as the protagonist reminisces about his childhood outings in the woods: “Henry always said he wasn’t afraid of a little green man, but he still stayed close to his dad and grandpa on their hunting trips. The one that really frightened him, the one that kept him up at night, was the Dzunukwa…Bigfoot.” When an adult Henry, now 6’3”, stumbles upon the beast, he at first mistakes the looming creature for a bear. Upon closer inspection, however, he realizes that the massive, hairy frame “dwarfs” him: “if it had been standing, he would have been eye to eye with its belly button, if there was such a thing hiding amongst the dense fur.” It’s an image hard to forget and one that brings to mind Stephen King’s sinister monster in Cycle of the Werewolf.
What’s most delicious about Easton Falls is its well-crafted employment of the trope that appears in the best classic creature features. A character might have escaped demise by a ferocious creature, but what if that creature is only one of many? And what if the others in its clan come to enact their revenge? Normally, I am not a monster horror fan, but I was already familiar with Holly Rae Garcia’s realistic dark fiction work, and I was curious to see what she would do with this subgenre. Sure enough, as she did in Come Join the Murder, Garcia delivers the goods with true-to-life dialogue and characterization that lends easy believability to her characters and setting. He co-writer, Ryan Prentice Garcia, lists himself as an Army veteran in his biography. The background story of Henry’s Gulf War service rings true and applicable, and it sets up the main character to be both multidimensional and empathetic.
As someone who has penned a novel-length work with a partner before, I know it can be extremely difficult: no matter how closely two authors’ writing styles are or how well their visions align, it is a complicated endeavor to meld separate pieces seamlessly. And yet, the Garcias achieve a singular voice that is tight and strong—there are no rough edges, and it’s clear they crafted this work as a united partnership. I hope this is the first of many collaborations to come. Pick up The Easton Falls Massacre before embarking on your next romantic getaway to a remote cabin or on your family’s next camping trip. You’ll jump at every creak and crackle, and isn’t that the best part about reading a good monster story?