Reader Beware, You’re in for Nostalgia

The author who had sparked my love of reading in the second grade has finally gotten around to producing a novel for adults. R. L. Stine’s Red Rain seems like a nostalgic tour of a place forgotten, as his writing is so familiar, and yet something is different as the idea of horror has changed with maturity. Graphic violence, sexual situations, and the occasional cluster of curse words define the main difference as Stine’s style does not seem to have changed much since the last time I picked up one of his books fifteen+ years ago. Even while approaching close to 400 pages, Red Rain is a quick, easy, and fun read. 

It’s quite fitting to note that the author who has made his career writing horror novels for children would have evil children headline as the topic of his first horror novel for adults. On the Acknowledgements page, Stine expresses that he was influenced by the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, which becomes somewhat obvious over the course of the story.

In the aftermath of a deadly hurricane, travel blogger Lea Sutter adopts twin boys on a whim. Seems a a bit of a stretch, but that does get cleared up as things progress. Lea’s husband, Mark and two biological children aren’t quite as enthused by the new additions to their family, but they try to make the best of it until the twins bring out the worst in them.

Murders are committed and evidence suggests Mark is the culprit. Things spiral out of control even further as the town’s children go missing overnight.

I’ll spoil no more than that. Enjoy.

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The Columbus Hockey Conspiracy

The other night I caught a Blue Jackets game with a bud. We watched them destroy the St. Louis Blues 4-1 and continue their quest to make it into the playoffs. They won the following three games straight and have a fighting chance tonight against a team they beat in their previous matchup, the Anaheim Ducks. 

Last season was a tragedy. It was also the season that I started following the Jackets as closely as I do. Based on statistics of the previous decade, I got used to the idea that being a fan meant self-inducing depression on purpose. 

Then we traded our captain away to the New York Rangers. I have no bad blood over Nash switching teams, as that’s become the norm in professional sports. In all honesty, Nash needed to surround himself with better players. He’s thriving with the Rangers, and I wish him well. 

This isn’t to say Blue Jackets veterans like Prospal aren’t good players, but I’ll be honest, last season was a mess. With the Nationwide Arena not paying for itself, many fans were  offering only words of discouragement and negativity, often suggesting that the Jackets move to a different city. 

Then the NHL shot themselves in the foot. Union battles took priority over pleasing the fans, and a lockout prevented professional hockey from taking place in North America. This lockout dragged on and on as they canceled the season one month at a time. No city was hit harder by the lockout than Columbus, as the Arena District had lost not only the regular season business, but also the business expected to be brought to the city by the 2013 All Star Game. Once the All Star Game was canceled in November, many Columbus hockey fans considered the season to be done. It would be another two months still before  a compromise would allow the puck to drop. 

“Forget hockey, I’m not even sure I’ll be interested when/if they do finally bring themselves out of the lockout.”

Then the season started. It was a bumpy start and only reaffirmed the negativity that had been the norm. Jack Johnson seemed to take a leadership position even though no captain had been officially declared. The Jackets were experimenting with some young blood on the ice, but one position stood out above the rest. 

Bobrovsky stepped up and took over the goaltending duties for the Jackets. Things haven’t been the same since then, as Bobrovsky has blocked shots with the quality of a finely tuned machine. His excellent goaltending created a surge in confidence and the Blue Jackets are actually doing well. 

Then the Jackets seem to win the trade as they acquired Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers. The Jackets are still less than perfect, but as their numbers shift from the worst in the league to a possible appearance in the playoffs, one has to wonder if this wasn’t some sort of apology to a block of fans that have all but given up. 

Regardless of whether or not the Jackets make it to the playoffs, they’ve improved dramatically and will carry that momentum into next season, pending further union battles. As a fan, I am excited. 

While watching the game against St. Louis with my friend, we discussed the season and came to wonder if the NHL is purposely propelling the Jackets to success to make up for the All Star Game, and an overall lack of quality over the past decade. Will a winning team bring the market back to Columbus? Based on the number of empty seats compared to last year, I’d go with ‘yes.’ 

With the damage of the lockout still in recent memory, a winning team with real quality will draw crowds and will quickly repair the losses our city forfeited. This will and has already ignited a new wave of fan appreciation. 

Do I believe that the NHL set up the Jackets for success? No, it was really a joke between friends. But it’s damn fun to speculate. 

 

A Prelude to Horror

Having gone to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer, Derf Backderf tells a story of adolescence in the 1970’s that leads right up to Dahmer’s first murder. The story focuses on the high school experience and the strange outcast that brought Derf and his group of friends the occasional comic relief and concern. My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel that is not so much a bloodbath as it is a prelude to the horrors that would surface in adulthood. It explores the mind of a teenager who simply shook hands with his prom date and denied his own sexuality. How could a teenager talk about the kind of urges that Jeffrey had with anybody in the social atmosphere of the time? It’s the kind of background story that few documentaries could capture with such intrigue without all of the bloody details.

I heard about the graphic novel last year when Backderf was scheduled to speak at his Alma Mater, The Ohio State University. I couldn’t make it, and it wasn’t until a matter of months later that I found myself in a book store with My Friend Dahmer on the employee’s selection shelf.

I don’t read too many comic books these days. On occasion I find a graphic novel so interesting  that I devour it within a matter of a few short hours. This was one of those books as the storytelling in My Friend Dahmer is so fluidly perfect that for a moment, I was lost in Derf’s world.

 

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A Public Service Announcement (The Season of the Motorcycle)

Spring is here. Time to break out the allergy medication and dust off the tools associated with our outdoor passions. Live concerts, football, and public intoxication make up just a fraction of the activities in which I hope to engage as the weather warms up.

The season of the motorcycle is also upon us. Millions of Americans in the northern part of the country will be getting their bikes out for the first time since last fall to take part in a lifestyle that is a defining trait for many. As the weather warms up, more people take to the road in general.

It will be ten years this fall that I lost a best friend from my childhood. Curtis Klingbeil was only a month into the age of sixteen when he was killed while riding his motorcycle. It was only a couple of days ago that I actually read the reports online as I searched for a picture to share. Alas, the only version of the picture I can find is a small pocket photo I’ve kept in my wallet for years.

Curtis’ story is one of many. I miss him and the potential he had shown as he approached adulthood. He took an interest in mechanics and electronics, none of which I understood when I was his age.

The point of this is to remind you to drive safely as you get out and about. Your attention could spare a life.