"Faint of Heart" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Gallows Press
Written by Jeff Stand
2012, 156 pages, Fiction
Released on April 4th, 2012
My introduction to Jeff Strand was about a year ago when I read his novella Fangboy. I was instantly a fan, having immediately loved his writing style as he was able to make me laugh and make me cringe with ease. I quickly followed Fangboy with his novel Wolf Hunt and found that the former wasn't just a fluke, this guy is good. And while I've picked up Dweller and Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) for devouring, I haven't had a chance to start either because of the reviews I have lined up for HorrorTalk. So imagine how pleased I was when I saw that Strand's Faint of Heart was one of the launch titles for new publishing company Gallows Press. Score! I can read more Strand without having to put any reviews off. Win / win.
Faint of Heart is a far cry different from the two novels I've already read. Where Fangboy and Wolfhunt are at times violent, there is always an underlying sense of humor. Not here. That funny business is gone. So gone, in fact, that if I didn't see Strand's name on the cover, I would have never have guessed he wrote it due to my limited experience with his work. That's not to say it's bad, laws no. Just different.
In the book, Rebecca Harpster sees her husband Gary off to a weekend of camping with his chums. While she doesn't like being left all alone for the few days he'll be gone, she doesn't want to be “that woman” and forbid him from going. Nor does she want to rough it. So she puts on her big boy pants and strong face and encourages him to go and have a good time.
But by Sunday night, his scheduled arrival time, Gary isn't home and he hasn't called, so naturally Rebecca is a bit worried. Things turn from bad to worse when a strange man arrives and kidnaps her at gunpoint. She finds out that Gary is still alive, but the only way she can save him is to go through what he did that fateful weekend. And it's not fishing, drinking and jawing.
Faint of Heart is a brutal book. The best way I can describe it is that it's Laymon-esque without the rape. It's as if Strand is channeling Richard Laymon, but toning it down a bit. This is not a bad thing. I've read a lot of Laymon books and I've really enjoyed most of them. But you have to admit, the raping of the women does get a bit tedious at times, even if they do kick some ass in many of his novels. But here, Rebecca avoids the penis, gets beat and does some damage of her own.
What makes Faint of Heart frightening is that it's realistic. It's not completely out of the realm of possibility for someone to kidnap another to put them through a series of tasks under the promise of letting them and a loved one live. Some of the things Rebecca has to do would be humorous taken out of context, such as attempting to buy beer without ID or starting a fight in a bar, but Strand writes it so instead of you smiling about her situation, you are worried for her.
My only problem with Faint of Heart is that it ends too abruptly. I'm not dissatisfied with the actual ending as it is more-or-less what I expected, but it was too clean and easy. That said, as a new fan to Jeff Strand's work, I appreciate Faint of Heart if only for the fact that it shows me how truly versatile the man can be.