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When the Devil Climbs by Drake Vaughn
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When the Devil Climbs

by Drake Vaughn

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When the Devil Climbs is a gritty psychological thriller with some good horror elements mixed in. Four ex-cons are putting up a massive billboard known as Big Bertha. It’s just a typical day until a group of pigs that are carrying some sort of disease show up and kill one of the men. From that point forward, the remaining three are stuck on the billboard as the pigs circle around down below. Without a working cell phone, they are cut off from the rest of the world with no real way of escaping, lest they take their chances with the pigs. All Russ Grote wants to do is to go see his estranged son, who he has not seen in years after being in jail for a spell and going through drug and alcohol addiction, but his goal remains elusive.

I had a chance to get a look at this novel when it was still in its developmental stages and got to see an evolution in Drake Vaughn’s writing, one that in the final stages shows maturity and strength. The novel is tough and gritty, not an easy, uplifting read by any means but one that shows a great deal of realism in its characters. Despite his many flaws, Russ has a sense of humanity, a real underdog. You would like to see him reach his goal of surviving and seeing his estranged son, but there is lingering doubt as to whether that will ever happen. The ending kind of fit the tone of the rest of the novel. This is a good, tight read for fans of thrillers and horror.

Carl Alves - author of Conjesero ( )
  Carl_Alves | Feb 10, 2016 |
Russ, Victor, Harley, and Slake, all ex-convicts, gather to begin work on changing the contents of Big Bertha, a gigantic billboard located in the middle of a field near a highway, but still in the middle of nowhere. As three men ascend to begin the task, Harley stays below with a vehicle and is eaten by a herd of virus-ridden pigs which seems to communicate by some sort of a telepathically transmitted plan that allows the ever increasing herd to act in unison towards a common goal. That goal is to kill, destroy, and eat the three remaining survivors.

With a beginning like this, a few questions occur to the reader. How can three people stranded on top of a billboard provide the material for more than a short story? No problem; there was a boat, a fish, and Melville, so this might work out. Not to put author Vaughn in the same writer category, but this author explores each of the characters thoroughly (even the short lived Harley) looking for character flaws that led them to be ex-convicts that in turn led them to such a dead end (pun intended) career. Russ, Victor, and Slake react to Harley in different ways so the reader gets a clear picture of Harley. The remaining three reveal their flaws through conversations with each other during their lengthy period of being trapped. There is not much more to do, except to survive in the face of no food, no water, a hot sun, and no realistic hope of being rescued. Victor harps on the idea of their ultimate fate and his acceptance of it, much to the annoyance of the other two.

The reader is thus faced with interesting character sketches, an interesting and informative account of the degradation of the human body without food and water, the effects of this degradation on the human mind and spirit, and a very interesting observation on addiction in its various forms: alcohol, narcotics, and addiction to anything. There are observations here that should interest anyone involved in AA, NA, or other addiction treatment organizations no matter the level, patient or sponsor.

Then there is the great ending. It is multi-part. Even if the reader anticipated a part; it would be difficult to anticipate the entire conclusion. This is a fast paced, entertaining, worth-while read.

( )
  ajarn7086 | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0692578781, Paperback)

After a decade of addiction and criminality, Russ Grote is given an opportunity by his jilted ex-wife, Patty, to reconnect with his son, Tyler. On the day before his scheduled reunion, Russ and his coworkers are attacked by a horde of pigs infected with a mysterious virus. Russ soon finds that on this day a reunion is the the last thing on his mind. Drake's fiction is a combination of horror, dark fantasy, and speculative fiction with a heavy psychological bent.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 10 Feb 2016 21:10:19 -0500)

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