The King of Evil
Genre: Horror, Occult, Voodoo * Publisher: Silver Leaf Books
Date of Publication: September 1 * ISBN: 978-1609751753
Number of pages: 334 * Word Count: 80,000 * Cover Artist: Paul Tynes
After a horrific accident, graphic artist Jack Simmons and his wife, Cindy, have lost all sense of a normal life. With their marriage in pieces, their only hope in setting things back is by starting over. The two pack their lives in boxes and migrate to the Big Easy. Upon arrival, Jack and Cindy fall into the jobs of their dreams. The new start they were hoping for seemed to have been waiting for them in New Orleans, after all. But something followed them. Something Evil.
Jack is commissioned to create the artwork for a graphic novel about a voodoo king, The King of Evil. As Jack works diligently to create a masterpiece, drawing the images back and forth between paper and his computer, he starts seeing things. Images of his King appear in the corners of his vision. They spring up just as Jack falls asleep. Always only inches out of plain sight.
The King grows more powerful, and soon he unleashes his power on Jack, Cindy, and the people in their lives. The King slowly destroys everyone around them, showing the newly rekindled couple what it's like to be evil for evil's sake. Jack and Cindy will need help from the King's past victims to stop him.
The King of Evil is a heart-pounding, supernatural thriller. Its vibrant characters and intense action is certain to keep its audience reading well into the night.
In the 1940s there was a hospital on the back way out of town where the poor people had their children. It was far enough out of the way that the city was only a murmur, and the trees surrounding the building threatened to break in through the windows. The red brick building was small, and there were only a few rooms. At the edge of the tall grass where the trees stopped, a chipmunk stared in wonder at the marvelous brick structure built by man. She had spent a long day trudging through the swampy Louisiana woods, which was much harder now that she was carrying a litter. The faraway sky bruised with the arrival of an oncoming storm.
Bars guarded the glass, but the chipmunk had no problem watching the commotion inside. She didn’t see the brownish-orange, diamond-shaped head easing through the tall grass. She watched as the big people picked up the small people from tiny beds and walked out of view. Then a big person would return and lay the small one back in the bed. No one but the chipmunk seemed to notice when the black smoke rose from the center of the room. None of the people reacted whatsoever, because only the chipmunk saw the ashy gray person materialize in the center of the nursery. The head crept closer. The life inside the chipmunk’s belly stirred. They were hungry, too.
The gray person stood above the tiny bed with wide eyes fixed on the small person. He looked back and forth between the one in front of him and the one just to his right. Then he turned to the one on his right as if suddenly more intrigued with that one. The chipmunk had no idea what to make of this. She just wanted food, and there was the feint smell of something sweet coming from that building. The chipmunk stood on her hind legs. She stopped, tilting her head. The new person, the one no one else seemed to notice, lifted an arm above his head. The copperhead sprung forward, sinking its teeth and venom into her back. The arm descended. As life drained from the chipmunk, the ashy gray person vanished, and the other people in the building seemed to panic.
Taming the Monsters
A horror writer’s mind is a lonely, dark room. It waits at the end of a long, wet tunnel in the cold. The heavy door to the room creaks and muffles the sounds of scratches and groans from the other side. Most people avoid that noisy staircase that leads down into the dark, the one with the blown light bulb.
There are people who do go down into the dark though.
The door to the lonely, dark room is eerie and unsettling to look at, and at the right angle it seems to be covered in an unnerving, dark liquid, but for those who walk the cold passageway, those who dare to open the heavy door and peek inside, there is magic. Infinite, beautiful magic. There are toys and trinkets, robes and gowns. There are pianos and sheets of music. And of course, there are monsters and madmen.
When a horror writer goes into the room, he isn’t going to just poke around and leave everything the way it is. No. A horror writer is looking to bring something back up with him. To decorate his home with it. He’s fascinated with those trinkets.
People wonder why I write vulgar, nasty stories, why I write horror. The answer is simple. Because when I go down the stairway and open the heavy, creaky door to that room, I fall in love with everything inside. All the creatures and playthings excite me, and I want to take them all out and display them. I don’t see a room filled with shadows, and harmful boogeymen. I see a mom-and-pop antique shop of weird lamps and garden decorations, and knickknacks for my living room. When I go into the room, I know what children in toy stores feel like. I want to take everything home.
Unfortunately I can’t bring everything up at once. So I take it up one at a time. And for a while there was only one piece of bric-a-brac sitting on the table between us. It’s a dirty statue of a man in a tee shirt and jeans, wearing a baseball cap. There’s a logo on the hat that you may even recognize.
By itself, maybe you find it uninteresting. Maybe you don’t want to look at it. You find it vulgar. And I’m OK with that. Because now there's a fancy top hat on the table. Maybe you’ll like that. Maybe you won’t. The pressure isn’t on you to like it. It’s on my to make it interesting. Loveable. Beautiful. It’s on me to make you want it for your home.
I’m going to keep going down to that room anyway, because as I said, I love everything in that room. I’m decorating my home with the things in there. I saw some flowers down there you might like. There are a few things in front of them though.
Don’t worry. They won’t die before you get a chance to see them.
That's one of the challenges when coming out of the room. Most people don't like what's in the room. That's why they don't go down there. That's why they lock the door to the basement. For those people, it doesn't matter what I bring up. They'll refuse to look at it no matter how shiny it is or how nice and clean it smells. Yes, it came from a dark room at the end of a tunnel, but that just means it has a darker story to tell.
Another problem the horror writer faces is that things in the room, some of them, look like replicas of famous paintings and cultures. That was a problem with the first thing I brought up. Once you see a statute of a man, you feel like you've seen them all. That’s what I love so much about the top hat. It's more than just a hat. It's a crown for a king. An evil king.
The wonderful thing about the room is that I can’t get a good look at that back wall—too many chests and cloaks blocking my view. I have to go. I can hear it calling. It’s louder now.
Josh Stricklin is an American author and musician with degrees in English literature and advertising from the University of Southern Mississippi. His first novel, Those Who Are Left, is available online and in person. The King of Evil is his first terrifying novel with Silver Leaf Books. He's currently hard at work finishing his first series…or more likely reading comic books and wearing a Seahawks jersey.
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