"The Circle" Book Review
Written by Bentley Little
2012, 150 pages, Fiction
Released in December of 2012
H.P. Lovecraft. Stephen King. Bentley Little. Richard Laymon. Edgar Allan Poe. Those are not just the names of some of the most renowned authors in horror; those are the guys with whom I spent most of my early teens. I never got into videogames because reading was it for me. I enjoyed each author's prose for different reasons. In the case of Bentley Little, I loved the way he always started out with very normal places and characters and then twisted everything into a new, infinitely macabre and extremely messed up thing. The Circle, a novella coming later this year from Cemetery Dance, is classic Little: a story about an ordinary community that's thrown into a very warped nightmare.
In William Tell Circle, on a day like any other, Helen hears a knock on her door and the second she opens it a kid runs in and shuts himself in her bathroom. Horrible noises ensue. After the intruder leaves the bathroom and runs to the garage, Helen finds something unexpected at the bottom of the unflushed toilet: a pile of diamonds. Not knowing what to do but impressed by her finding, the woman ends up locking the kid in her garage. She wonders if the diamonds are real and suspects the kid played a trick on her. However, she quickly changes her mind when she witnesses the youngster squat and shit out a small pile of precious stones. She calls her husband and a few hours later they're already planning how to turn their bizarre situation into money. Sadly, the gems come at a very high price and they're not the only thing coming out of the youth's behind.
When night arrives, young Frank and his friends sneak into a backyard where they hope a fabled shrine will grant them their wish: a girl. When the kids get there, they find their older brothers also have something to ask. Hiding in the bushes, they witness something terrible. With one of the older boys dead, reality becomes something much worse than any rumor they have ever heard about the strange woman that lives in the house. As the friends run for their life and try to get help, Gil Marotta comes into the picture. Gil is Frank's father and the one who ends up going to the check out what happened at the shrine. Although he senses there might by some truth behind what he heard, he still has doubts. When he gets to the shrine, he encounters exactly what the panicking kid told him and something more: the witch that lives in the house. Before everything is over, much more blood will be spilled.
Little is a superb storyteller. The stories here are all masterfully interwoven and the weirdness comes at you at the speed of light. There is never a dull moment and the frantic pace means that many readers will be tempted to keep turning pages until they finish the book. After a few years of not reading the author's work, being once again thrown into a bizarre suburban nightmare like only Little can concoct was a treat that exceeded my expectations.
The Circle is a reprint and the original appeared in Four Dark Nights, a collection that also included novellas by Tom Piccirilli, Douglas Clegg, and Christopher Golden. Cemetery Dance has done the right thing by pulling this one out and allowing it to shine by itself. It is funny, creepy, and out of the ordinary in the best ways possible.