Norman Partridge has been pounding out his unique brand of hard-boiled horror since the early 1990s. His short story collection Mr. Fox & Other Feral Tales and his debut novel Slippin' Into Darkness served as a one-two punch introducing Partridge's distinct take-no-prisoners style – a style he's continued to refine in the years since.
Partridge found the perfect mix for his noir and horror influences in Dark Harvest, his 2006 novel that reaped a number of accolades, including both the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild awards for achievement in long fiction. Harvest is an uncompromisingly dark, claustrophobic tale about a Midwestern town's bizarre, bloody Halloween night ritual, and became an instant must-read for the Halloween season when it was released.
In Dark Harvest (and in Partridge's follow-up, a 2010 collection called Johnny Halloween: Tales of the Dark Season) the author is able to capture the essence of Halloween in the ways that the best October-themed tales of Ray Bradbury are able to do. Reading these stories is like taking a walk on a cool autumn evening, the dead leaves rattling in the gutters and a candy sack growing heavy in your hand. You're looking to push your curfew as far as it will go, and while there's excitement and anticipation in the air, there's also a growing sense of dread, and a certainty that there are things in the shadows just waiting for you to take a wrong turn. Those things run the gamut from supernatural stalkers like the October Boy in Harvest to real-world serial killers like the Zodiac, who Partridge writes about in a Johnny Halloween essay entitled "The Man Who Killed Halloween."
Also highly recommended is Partridge's 2010 collection Lesser Demons, a pulp-filled set of stories that further melds the author's crime and horror sensibilities. The centerpiece is a novella called "The Iron Dead" in which Partridge introduces Chaney, a monster hunter with a mechanical hand that is certain to show up in future stories.
Through all of Partridge's work, you get a real sense of the things that have influenced him since childhood: the classic Universal movie monsters, the gory EC comics, the hard-bitten heroes of Chandler and Howard. What's amazing is that, while he wears these influences on his sleeve for all to see, he's able to blend the component parts to create a cocktail that's all his own. Once you begin a Norman Partridge story, there's no denying that it's his and his alone. If you've not yet discovered his work, check out the links that follow and track it down. You can thank me later.
His website: www.normanpartridge.com
His blog: http://americanfrankenstein.blogspot.com
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country (http://theoctobercountry.wordpress.com), and contributes interviews to the Horror World website (www.horrorworld.org). Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.