Monday, December 04, 2017

The Horror Is Not The Mess - Red Sleeper by Brian Downes

Anybody can splash gore on the walls, the same way any four-year-old can finger-paint. That’s not horror writing. Not even its fans think that’s horror. No one who loves slasher flicks can’t sleep. They’re not screaming; they’re laughing. You can kill a naked teenager with a lawn edger, but you cannot intimidate the soul with gardening tools.

Real horror is about loneliness. Chase a person around with a shrieking weed whacker and you’ll raise their adrenaline levels. But lock a person in solitary confinement and you will drive them mad. The weed whacker isn’t what’s horrifying about the weed whacker. What’s horrifying is that you are likely to die in the woods at night, and the only other living thing out there regards you only as something to be cut.

What is awful about the lion is not his claws. It’s the fact that he will not help you. He can’t even think about helping you. What is awful about the lion is that he is not part of your human tribe, and you are alone when he kills you. What is awful about the lion is the same thing that is awful about the universe.

The past giants of horror understood this very plainly. Poverty-stricken Howard Phillips Lovecraft was quite comfortable with it, as he ignored his wife to look up at the distant, silent stars. Edgar Allen Poe understood it, writing “Every poem should remind the reader that they are going to die”, before they found him drunk, raving, his brain boiling itself to death on the streets of Baltimore. Mary Shelley understood it. Dr. Frankenstein’s crime was not to create the monster. His crime was to create the monster to be alone. And the monster forces that condition on his maker in murderous revenge.

So this is my chief rule for writing horror: the chance of help is always shrinking, and the protagonist must always fear that they will no longer be considered human. Either because they are dead, or because their human value is rejected by those around them. Especially their torturers and killers. 

Red Sleeper
The Berlin Fraternity Universe
Book Two
Brian Downes

Genre: Historical horror

Date of Publication: December 1st, 2017

ISBN-13: 978-1978447349
ISBN-10: 1978447345

Number of pages: 450
Word Count: 118,766

Cover Artist: Miriam Medina

Tagline: A cold war after dark.

Book Description:

In the horsepower town of 1950s Detroit, FBI agent Christopher Haigwood is raising his Catholic family and hunting Soviet spies. Then a communist fanatic who was arrested with a lot of guns, dynamite, and heroin breaks out of jail right before his eyes, and Haigwood is plunged into a terrifying labyrinth of plots, informants, liars, and the horrifying revelation that vampires are real, and that some of his KGB quarry are undead.

Red Sleeper is set in the world of The Berlin Fraternity.


          Haigwood had read Walter Swale’s file several times. He’d written sections of it. White. Brown eyes, brown hair, approximately 5’6”, 175 pounds estimated weight. Father born in Poland, 1893, changed the family name to Swale from Szwarc on arrival in the USA. Haigwood had studied photographs of Swale to memorize the high chin, the bulging lips, the distance between the eyes, the widow’s peak that pointed out of the receding hairline. He had once sat at Swale’s kitchen table with the curtains drawn and copied names out of his address book while Swale was out at the movies. Now Swale was sitting in jail, having been brought in the night before for resisting arrest, along with possession of: four ounces Mexican heroin, ten sticks dynamite, one M1 rifle with two hundred rounds of ammunition, one police revolver with ammunition, and twenty-three copies of a Communist Party pamphlet urging workers to revolt against their bosses and their elected leaders in Washington, D.C.
          Haigwood had been at home with his wife, Annie, over the Thanksgiving weekend. He’d gotten the call last night at dinner. Now he was walking into the jail at eight on Monday morning to get his first eyeball-to-eyeball with this Red they had been watching for more than six months.
          There was a jail guard stationed at the front desk. Haigwood smiled at the man as he unwrapped his scarf from around his neck. “Good morning! How’s everything with you fellas?”
          “Good morning,” the guard answered, looking him up and down warily. “Is it snowing already?”
          Haigwood took his fedora off, tapped the snow dust off its brim, and ran his hand through his hair. “Yes, it’s brisk out there!” He pulled out his credentials. “I’m Christopher Haigwood, Federal Bureau of Investigation. I’m here to see Swale, Walter, a prisoner brought in about 2100 hours last night.”
          The guard, whom Haigwood saw was about ten years younger than he was, focused on Haigwood’s ID. He reached his hand out tentatively to touch the wallet. “I heard about that. So you really work for J. Edgar Hoover, huh?”
          “And the American people,” Haigwood answered with a smile. “Now do you think you could get someone to show me to Swale?”
          The guard picked up a telephone receiver from a handset at his station and dialed a number. Haigwood toyed with his hat, smothered his impatient sigh, and looked around at the signs in the jail’s foyer. The signs told him to be on the alert for any men dressed in black and gray stripes, because they might be escaping inmates. And that he was going to have to surrender his revolver if he wanted to go any further. He looked out the window and saw the snowflakes floating gently downward, their numbers growing. From further inside the jail he could smell the morning coffee, but he’d just finished off a Coca-Cola in the car.
          He was really angry at Swale for getting himself arrested like this. But he was very much looking forward to speaking to him personally.
          A second guard appeared and took Haigwood inside the jail. This one older than him, and not shy at all about staring at the G-man with frank curiosity. He had a nametag that read, “G. Cantor”. Nobody asked Haigwood for his service weapon, so he kept his overcoat on and didn’t mention it.
          “So I read this guy’s sheet,” Haigwood’s guide said indifferently as they walked.
          “Yeah, you did?”
          “Yeah,” Cantor nodded, looking like he didn’t care, but watching Haigwood’s face carefully. “You know we don’t get a lot of dynamiters in here.”
          “Oh, you don’t?” Haigwood put a chime of surprise in his voice.
          “No,” the guard said, warming up to explaining his job to someone he had expected to be smarter than him. “We don’t get too many commies, either.”
          “I guess you’ve got one today, though?”
          “Yeah, yeah, we’ve sure got one today. It’s an unusual day. Here he is, on the end.”
          They had been walking down a chilly, second-level row of cells as Haigwood parried Cantor’s efforts to pump him for information. It was cold enough that Haigwood was quite comfortable with his overcoat on. Morning light, turned a cottony gray by the snow coming down outside, slanted in through the high, narrow, barred windows.
          Swale was up early, and had heard them coming. Haigwood could see him pressing his face up against the bars of his cell, craning his neck to see them approach. But Haigwood stopped first at the cell adjacent to Swale’s, and looked down at a little man wrapped in a blanket on one of the cell’s two bunks. “Who’s this?” He asked Cantor.
          “Who, him? That’s Hobson. He stays with us sometimes, three or four times a year.”
          “What brings him in?”
          “Tuning up his wife.”
          Haigwood gestured at Hobson’s sleeping cellmate. “And what about that one?”
          “That’s, uh, Gomez. Got drunk and stabbed a fellow over a game of cards.”
          “OK,” Haigwood said, reassured that the two men who might overhear his conversation didn’t much matter. He told the guard, “Thank you very much, Mr. Cantor, I’ll be fine here,” as he took the final few steps that brought him face to face with Walter Swale through the bars of his cell.

About the Author:

Brian Downes learned to read at a young age. He is now a novelist who lives in Orlando, Florida. His other novels are The Berlin Fraternity and The Carrefour Crisis. He also writes for the website Florida Geek Scene.