I’ve just finished The Boys On The Mountain by John Inman. I am, for want of a better term, flabbergasted. Not only has the ending of this horror novel left me shaking my head, but my entire physical self has been jumping at the slightest sound, creak, or bang for the last two days. You see this is not the romantic comedy writer John Inman I was reading. No, this is the mouth in fist, terror consumed, nerve frazzled, horror story John Inman and to be honest, I have little clue as to how to get my racing thoughts organized into a structured review.
So, let me begin this review with a cautionary note to those who may find certain scenes in this novel as a potential trigger for their own emotional memories. Without a doubt there are repeated accounts of horrific acts of torture, rape, and death in this novel. While I strongly feel none of these moments were included for sensationalistic appeal, I will say they are visceral and written with frank realism, making them all the more disturbing. With that disclaimer given, please, read on and discover why this book should be placed on your TBR shelf, immediately.
Jim is a writer. The tales he weaves are of the horror genre and yet very little in reality causes him any real fear. Surrounded most of his life by a group of men who are his closest friends, Jim has dated each one over time, but remained friends and continued to enjoy their place in his life and his in theirs. Perhaps the only one of his crowd that he regrets not pursuing further is Michael. There is a decided wistful longing for Michael when Jim recounts a memory of their time together.
Despite having this tight knit group in his life, when a remote house in the hills outside San Diego comes up for sale, Jim snaps at the chance to buy it. Arranging to visit the home, he and his intrepid dog, Rex, head into the mountains to stay at the residence for a few days before arranging to move forward in the sale and buy it outright. Immediately he discovers that the rumored hauntings surrounding the house are, in fact, true. The house was formerly owned by Nigel Letters, a B-grade actor who starred in laughable scary films back in the 1930s. As the story goes, Letters was found dead in a taffeta gown, having choked to death while masturbating—a case of autoerotic asphyxiation. Little did Jim know then that dressing in drag and being a real bastard of a person was Nigel Letters’ least offense.
Before long, the house makes it known that there are others lurking there, that great acts of horror have been done, and that Jim has been especially chosen to bring light to past events that have remained hidden for far too long. When boys literally begin appearing out of the woodwork, Jim is drawn into a story that will forever change him and the friends who come to visit him. This is not just fodder for his next horror novel, this is real life and Nigel Letters is the key to indescribable acts of torture that left more than 17 boys dead and buried on the mountain top.
This novel was incredible and one that I could not put down. While every bump in the night forced me to turn on yet another light during my reading, I was still drawn inexorably into this story. I wept for these boys, I was in fear for Jim and his friends, and on more than one occasion my heart leaped into my throat and I had to stop reading because I was just too darned scared to continue. During my time with this book, names like Stephen King and Dean Koontz became solidly linked to John Inman—yes, he is that good a storyteller. But this was so much more than a horror story.
Author John Inman plumbs the depth of his characters, pulling from them their foibles, quirks, and the deep secrets that make them wholly real and fascinating to read. The secondary cast of friends who surround Jim are simply divine. They provide much needed comic relief in the midst of taut action and frightening circumstances. They also serve to complement Jim’s character, revealing hints about his past life, making him more human, and, in many ways, they expose his reasons for being obstinate in the face of sure defeat. They also serve to show us how remarkably loyal and tender hearted a person Jim can be toward those he loves.
As far as the story line goes, I have never read a novel such as this one that had a narrative so strong it managed to grab me from page one and hold me in a near death grip to the very end. I was riveted by this house and wanted to discover more about it, the monster that owned it, and the terrible things he did to those he entrapped. The story about lost boys who were already cast off by society and their families and who then gave themselves unwittingly to a depraved man made for an incredibly intense and scary story. This was a page-turner from beginning to end.
I am so impressed by this author. John Inman has proven time and again that he can write in multiple genres and still entertain, inform, and hold the interests of his audience. The Boys On The Mountain is more than just a scary story; it is a reminder that in life there is always something more. I want to close with a quote from the book that I feel really sums up this author’s reminder that love can be found in the most mysterious of places. I believe it is a message of hope for those who feel they have lost their way.
We never know who’s going to love us, do we? We pick and choose those we love, but what comes back to us is sometimes a mystery.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.