The key to a really good horror novel for me is fairly simple – I want palpable dread, a deep sense of nostalgia that borders on an ache for the reader and the perfect mix of atmosphere and mood. Most of these things can be created by a truly talented writer, but some of these tent poles are a little harder to construct. Chris Kosarich puts together a heck of a Halloween novella with Mister Jack and rest assured, he brings the goods.
The story starts like any self-respecting Halloween tale should, with a group of teenagers seeking out the weird lady of the neighborhood on All Hallows Eve. Kosarich doesn’t take the well-worn path of stereotypes of formulaic story arc with this one, though – he delivers a really fun and fast-paced read that is perfect for the holiday season.
The story of Mister Jack, as told by the alleged town witch, Josie Howard, is a captivating and original folk tale that definitely deserves its own short film. This isn’t a throw-away sub-story line. This is a bucket full of your favorite Halloween candy in a decaying blow mold pumpkin bucket. The reader gets the goods and it’s a satisfying tale that only adds to the richness of the novella in general.
Much like the three teens who are listening to the story as Josie weaves it, I found myself getting lost in the tale. Undoubtedly, half of this was thanks to the rich dialogue Kosarich lent to Josie and the other half was the intriguing mythology of Mister Jack himself. As things start to slide into madness, that wonderful palpable dread starts to sink in.
I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading a story that was set in a time and place long ago, when Halloween reverence still ran bright throughout the country. I am a sucker for Halloween stories. I immediately think of McDonald’s Happy Meal buckets and Charlie Brown specials from years past. I want to feel the crunch of leaves beneath my socks. I want to smell the bonfires from across town. I want to feel that undeniable chill that accompanies an October night. Mister Jack has all of that, and more.
Clocking in at 76 pages, Kosarich manages to compress a heck of a story into an hour-long read. There’s a lot to play with for future projects, if Mr. Kosarich so chooses. If he doesn’t, well then we still have a fantastic Halloween tale to tell for years to come.