Author Jonathan Wright adeptly walks the line between erotic horror and dark fantasy romance with In the Belly of the Night, a collection of the first three novellas in his Joseph Horn series. While it took me awhile to get comfortable with his terse and often cryptic writing style, his humor drew me in on page one of Belly of the Night. By the first page of Seeking the Rift, I was solidly hooked on the shadowy dark desire oozing from the pages – pages I couldn’t quit advancing on my e-reader until I reached the very satisfying ending to Promises to Keep.
In In the Belly of the Night, almost nothing is quite what it at first seems. Vietnam Vet Joe Horn hangs out with the Homeless, living on the sharp edge between Here --the reality that we all know -- and There -- the netherworld belonging to Muck-Drippy thing and other assorted nasties. Occasionally, these slimy creatures ooze over the line to slurp up a human being in some secluded dark alley or public restroom that straddles the ominous edge between worlds. Over the years, since the night Muck Drippy thing took out all his fellow soldiers in a rice paddy, Joe has aged very little. He doesn’t sleep and doesn’t do relationships with women, because Muck Drippy thing and his pals are still after him. Sometimes, when the loneliness gets to him, Joe steps over the line into the Borderland that lies between the two worlds to play the sex game he’s devised with Sally, a succubus who wants to possess him just as much as Muck Drippy thing wants him dead.
The games stop when reporter Sarah Fenton begins investigating Joe and the bombings he seems to be responsible for. As they face the creature killing Joe’s homeless friends and stalking them, what she finds in Joe is not the crazed paranoid she expected, but a very different kind of hero. Joe as well will be in for a surprise or two if Sarah chooses to reveal some well-kept secrets of her own. Seeking the Rift (formerly titled Nightwalker) continues the darkly erotic and otherworldly intrigue that is Joe and Sarah’s life on the edge of Here and There. As they begin to delve deeper into the darkest aspects of their passion for each other, shadowy enemies continue to pursue them, forcing them apart in a perilous game of seduction that takes them from dark city alleyways to small town Indiana, from The Man’s eerie house of voyeurs to the shadowy Borderland. Wandering in and out of the Borderland, lost and alone, with only Sally and his own wiles to rely on, Joe realizes that he must close the rift inadvertently opened all those years ago in Vietnam, the rift that had let in Muck Drippy thing and his hellish buddies. To find her lost lover, Sarah enlists the aid of Raphael “Bogeyman” Karak, a strange man with even stranger powers. He and Joe may have been as close as brothers since they walked off Hamburger Hill together, but can Sarah trust Raphael half as much as she desires him? And most of all, can he help her find Joe before she loses him forever?
In Promises to Keep, Joe Horn and his band of misfits and warriors fight to close the rift torn in the curtain between Here and There all those years ago in Southeast Asia. And they have to do it before all manner of creepy, gooey blobs and crawlies invade from where else but Hell itself.
In the end, can Sally finally be trusted? Will Joe finally blow Muck Drippy thing to hell and back? Will he and Sarah get home alive? And who really is Raphael? And what is Joe’s connection to Mary?
Bravo, Jonathan Wright! With In the Belly of the Night, you kept me squirming in my seat with all manner of creepy crawlies going plop in the night. You titillated me with scenes of sweaty, tied down and tied up sex. You made me respect fog for the unknowns it can hide. And with all your action-packed twists and turns, you kept me on my toes from all the way to the very end. GREAT collection!