Author Tony Evans Tells A Fevered 'Folktale' In His Latest Horror Novella

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of or its management.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. (This is a legal requirement, as apparently some sites advertise for Amazon for free. Yes, that's sarcasm.)

Horror is a tree with many branches. The classics—Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Gothic graveness of Poe and M.R. James—serve as the trunk, and while each burgeoning new subgenre creates its own fledgling offshoot, the tree’s root is undeniably folklore. Many of horror’s most familiar stock figures evolved directly from those superstitious myths of old, passed down through the generations by our ancestors: the vampire and werewolf of Eastern Europe, the Haitian zombie and Arabian ghoul, the Russian child-devouring witch Baba Yaga, the vengeful yōkai (ghosts) of Japanese lore. All originated as warnings about the dangers lurking in the dark bowers of man’s domain, but if, as is often claimed, every legend has some basis in fact, what are we to make of these supernatural archetypes? Are they mere boogeyman fables that have assumed roles in the collective unconscious far beyond their intended purpose? Or does something real truly serve as their inspiration?

It’s the power inherent in spinning such yarns that’s the core of horror author Tony Evans’ latest novella, the unnerving Dark Holler Press release, Folktale. Lifelong friends and Chicago suburbanites Daryll and Preston are thrill-seekers with an appetite for the paranormal. For the last fifteen years they’ve traveled to allegedly haunted destinations near and far with the hope that each trip will bestow an authentic ghostly encounter, yet always return disappointed. Level-headed Preston believes he’s outgrown their phantom hunting and wants nothing more than to settle down with his longtime girlfriend, Sarah, until the day Daryll shares his latest find: an advertisement from remote Pleasant Grove, Kentucky, an unincorporated town nestled deep in the Appalachian wilds promising ‘Folktales that are GAURANTEED to scare!’. Reluctant, but wanting to acquiesce his buddy, Preston agrees to the venture, but their road trip odyssey flounders once the pair arrive and find little more than a convenience store owned by Jesse, an elderly backwoods bumpkin with a penchant for tall tales. Concerned they’ve wasted their time and irritated by both Jesse’s gruff nature and dubious love of flies, they’re convinced to stay upon hearing the old man’s claims that a sorceress from centuries past with a connection to Beelzebub and a taste for babies still roams the local forests. When Daryll and Preston proceed to set up camp, however, they quickly learn Jesse’s stories were no bluff, and the pair must endure a harrowing night of fearsome hallucinations, psychological and physical torments, and a blood-soaked revelation that may cost them their lives.

Folktale is a fast read; at a slim 139 pages, it can be consumed in a single dedicated sitting. Evans employs a slow burn set-up for much of the book, spending leisurely time introducing his leads’ contrasting personalities (the profane back-and-forth banter between horn-dog Alpha Male Daryll and hesitant, sensitive guy Preston provides a healthy dose of comic relief) and the macabre history of Pleasant Grove. While some may find such a drawn-out approach off-putting, there’s method to the madness, and as he’s shown with previous literary efforts Sour, The 11th Plague, and the superb collection Better You Believe, Evans is a master of fostering mood and tension, and once Daryll and Preston hike into the wilderness he rewards the patient reader with unrelenting shocks, grotesque imagery and vivid gore that continues literally until the last line.

Born and raised in the same Appalachian foothills where Folktale is set, Evans brings an authentic creepy-crawly campfire ambiance to his storytelling, and that atmosphere is heightened by the novella’s art team, A.A. Medina of Fabled Beast Design and cover designer Kristina Osborn from Truborn Design, both of whom perfectly capture the novella’s hair-raising essence. With its fevered talk of witchcraft, human sacrifice, and Satanic covenants, sly wink-and-nod fright flick references, and gut-wrenching, nihilistic finale, Folktale is an entry written by a horror fan for horror fans, and because of that I feel compelled to grant it a well-deserved 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. Don’t go into them woods!

4.0 / 5.0