Blackwater Val by William Gorman (Crystal Lake Publishing, April 23, 2016) is Gorman’s first published novel, and it’s a hum-dinger! Filled with graphic sex and violence, the author has thrown everything but the kitchen sink into 467 fast-paced pages. There’s a little girl, a dog, a scalp-taking Native American, a white buffalo, a sadistic cop, a plague, a fallen angel, an ex-con, a woman politician, a lesbian, prostitutes, ghosts, haunted houses (hell, the whole Val is haunted), psychic phenomena, a real live witch, Nazis, a reluctant hero, and a whole lot more. There’s even a history lesson or two thrown in for good measure. Blackwater Val is an ambitious first novel.
The story is primarily set in the Rock River Valley of north-central Illinois, which just happens to be where I live. I can recognize many of the landmarks, although the author used poetic license and renamed a few. But I know this haunted place, just as Bill Gorman knows this haunted place. Gorman once called this place home. I still do.
Richard Franklin and his six-year-old daughter Katie return to the Val to scatter Katie’s mother’s ashes in accordance with her last wishes. Michelle Deadmond Franklin had suffered from terminal cancer, but it wasn’t cancer that killed her. She died as a result of a hit-and-run accident in eastern Maine where Richard and Michelle had moved after they married. Eyewitnesses said the dark-colored car that killed Michelle looked dirty, and someone had written “Wash me” on the dirty car. The car and driver were never found. Until now, that is, when Richard sees, parked outside Nain Lutheran Church, a dark-colored car with “Wash me’ still written in the dirt.
Rich Franklin can smell the evil that infests the Val, but he’s blind to how close the evil is to his own family. In fact, Rich is blind to a lot of things until his daughter is kidnapped by the evil and Rich is forced to act. Michelle and Katie are the seers in this tale. Rich sees nothing until Katie shows him.
I can envision this novel as an epic motion picture with a cast of thousands and multimedia special effects. The movie would need an “R” rating, of course, for the violence and the sex and the foul language.
If you like extreme horror with a strong, almost blasphemous, supernatural theme, you’ll love Blackwater Val.
And, if you happen to live in the Val like I do, you’ll find it impossible to sleep nights after reading Gorman’s gruesome tale.