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October: Michael Rowe pens a classic horror novella with a hot twist - We Recommend - My Gay Toronto

October: Michael Rowe pens a classic horror novella with a hot twist
06 November 2017.


by Drew Rowsome -

This year's best Halloween treat didn't arrive until November. Michael Rowe's novella October wasn't released until October 31, but waiting until October is not an option; any dark night of impending winter is an ideal time to curl up with this insidious confection. Rowe takes a Carrie-esque revenge tale, spikes it with Leo Ford leather fantasies, and just enough Hellraiser demon lover wish-fulfillment to keep the "it doesn't get better" moral tone ambiguous. October is genuinely scary and suspenseful, and refreshingly, gloriously gay.

In the small town of Milton, Ontario - masterfully evoked in the manner of It or Summer of Night - Mikey Childress is tortured by the town bullies and all the other inhabitants. His suffering is gruesome and only slightly leavened by a friendship with a spunky goth fag hag, until he is the victim of a malicious prank involving a jockstrap that leads to a brutal gay bashing. The torture has gone too far and hurt is replaced by a rage for revenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the town contains a coven of witches with whom Mikey crosses paths and  . . . To give away any more would ruin the joy and horror as Rowe unveils the plot points, teasing out what the reader suspects, and often twisting in unsettling ways.

Aside from being a classic spooky story, Rowe (Enter, NightWild Fell) explores the dark terrain of sexual and emotional desire. Mikey has a crush on one of his chief tormentors, a hunky blond, so when Adrian Johnson - a tall, not-coincidentally blond, irresistibly handsome bad boy - appears, Mikey and the reader are smitten, despite knowing better on some visceral level. It is tricky terrain, where love and lust, in this case specifically gay love and lust, is sublimated into masochistic pleasure and pain. It is heartrending, horrific and sadly familiar. It is gay coercion porn taken to terrifying extremes as the giddiness of young love/anti-hero worship is revealed as manipulation and self-deception.

The beauty and brutal ugliness of a small town gives a solid foundation and even the worst of the bullies is given enough backstory to become a breathing character. Nothing is black and white and Rowe is merciless about not letting the reader off the hook for anyone's actions. The fag hag Wroxy is delineated so clearly that she refuses to become a plot device, and the reader understands and empathizes with all of the protagonist's choices even as they become morally dubious and grotesquely extreme. Somehow Rowe manages to balance the lush creepiness of Gothic prose and tropes with a lean, relentless prose, paradoxically leisurely but driving. October could easily have been a long, immersive novel, but benefits from the punchy restraints of a novella and the constraints of unfolding over a clock-ticking month of time.

October is a very satisfying horror novella, there are scares and gore aplenty, but the unflinching examination of the perils of bullying and revenge and how they both scar irrevocably, elevates it to another plane. And the sex is unabashedly hot—there is a special appeal when wish fulfillment porn is written with literary flair. We all crave and fear an Adrian, and October allows us, in classic horror form, to question just how far we could, how far we should, go in dealing with our demons. Fortunately Rowe is willing to go right to the edge and just a chilling step or two beyond.

October is available from Amazon.ca, iTunes, Kobo.com and in other digital formats. chizinepub.com

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