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Blackwater: The Complete Saga by Michael…

Blackwater: The Complete Saga

by Michael McDowell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Michael McDowell's Blackwater (Omnibus 1-6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
673270,413 (4.24)1 / 6
Blackwater is the saga of a small town, Perdido, Alabama, and Elinor Dammert, the stranger who arrives there under mysterious circumstances on Easter Sunday, 1919. On the surface, Elinor is gracious, charming, anxious to belong in Perdido, and eager to marry Oscar Caskey, the eldest son of Perdido's first family. But her beautiful exterior hides a shocking secret. Beneath the waters of the Perdido River, she turns into something terrifying, a creature whispered about in stories that have chilled the residents of Perdido for generations. Some of those who observe her rituals in the river will never be seen again ... Originally published as a series of six volumes in 1983, Blackwater is the crowning achievement of Michael McDowell, author of the Southern Gothic classics Cold Moon Over Babylon and The Elementals and screenwriter of Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. This first-ever one-volume edition, with a new introduction by Shirley Jackson Award-winning author Nathan Ballingrud, marks Blackwater's first appearance in print in three decades and will allow a new generation of readers to discover this modern horror classic.… (more)



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This novel was originally published as a serial novel in six parts, but any one part alone wouldn't stand on its on metaphorical two feet. If it interests you, you need to read or listen to the whole thing. And when I first started listening to my Audible edition, I wasn't sure I'd like it.

I like some horror, but not lots and mostly authors I'm familiar with. So this horror story was just going to be a “potato chip” book that I probably wouldn't finish.

I was wrong. This is much about the Caskey family, a rather odd family, as it is about river monsters (but of course, it includes river monsters). I like family sagas and this entertained me more than the horror part of it, which was an important part but mostly on the edge of the story. This family seems to think nothing of giving their kids away or getting someone else's. They run timber mills before the depression hits, through WWII, and later on. They keep pretty much to themselves, despite being the town's royalty. And the Blackwater and Perdido rivers are ever present. The horror part is occasionally rather grisly, but there is not a huge amount of it. Despite starting this book thinking I very well may give it up partway through, I ended up enjoying it and the narration of it quite a bit. ( )
  TooBusyReading | May 29, 2019 |
WOW. Just wow. I came across the Blackwater series - six books, from The Flood to The Rain, published in the 80s - by accident, and I can't believe I nearly missed such a gem! The best description (not mine) of this Southern Gothic family saga would be The Thorn Birds meets The Shape of Water - a bizarre combination, satisfying my love of the Deep South and horror novels in one.

When a flood devastates the small Alabama town of Perdido just after the First World War, the rising waters bring a mysterious stranger into the lives of the Caskey family. Elinor Dammert, rescued from the top floor of the local hotel by Oscar Caskey, claims to have no family and no past, having travelled to Perdido to take up a teaching position. Oscar and his uncle James are immediately smitten, but family matriarch Mary-Love is suspicious. When the inevitable happens and her son marries Elinor, the battle lines are set between the two women - but Elinor has a darker secret than even Mary-Love could imagine. Elinor is a creature of the river, a literal swamp monster, who transforms from a strong-willed woman into the Creature from the Black Lagoon whenever she returns to the waters of the Perdido river. Elinor can also harness the power of the river to kill anyone who crosses her - a thrilling character!

Elinor aside, I think I love the family aspect of the books more than the occasional water-based murder. Told with the same lilting imagery of Harper Lee's Mockingbird or Flannery O'Connor's stories, Michael McDowell weaves a twentieth century fairy tale, where the women rule the family and make the money while the men do as they're told. The Caskeys own the local lumber mill and live in glorious isolation alongside the river - Mary-Love and spinster daughter Sister, Oscar and Elinor, and Uncle James. Marriages and children expand the dynasty, before sadly fading away in the last two novels, but the whole family is full of characters who really come to life and endear themselves to the reader. Even Mary-Love, the mother-in-law from hell! My favourites were Elinor, of course, and Miriam, her first daughter (I could see a lot of myself in Miriam!)

Each book is told in a series of anecdotal chapters, focusing on different family members and their relationships, often resolving a dramatic situation in a satisfying twist - especially when Elinor is involved! James' wife Genevieve returns, creating havoc in his pleasant life, until Elinor marches her off the property and to her death. Same with the errant husband of Queenie, Genevieve's sister. who arrives in Perdido to claim charity from the Caskeys. And when Queenie's son Malcolm falls in with a troublemaker, narrowly escaping prison after a bungled hold-up, Elinor's daughter Frances comes to the rescue when Malcolm's sister is attacked in revenge. The stories can start to sound a little bit pat, and a lot the same, but the narrative is so enchanting that I didn't even care!

What could be better than a rambling family saga set in the Deep South where a river monster livens up the passing years by feeding on her enemies in the water every now and again? Definitely recommended! ( )
1 vote AdonisGuilfoyle | May 21, 2019 |
And so the long, dark saga of the Caskey family comes to its inevitable conclusion. From its mysterious beginning to its dark, somber, and not particularly unexpected end, this series really set the high water mark (har har) for Southern Gothic horror fiction. Dynamic, well-defined, evolving characters throughout; lush, immersive backgrounds, and a compelling narrative that inspires unceasing page-turning with trembling fingers. It must be one of the greatest literary crimes of the 20th century that this masterpiece of a series was relegated to grocery store paperback racks when it was first published by Avon back in 1983. McDowell always considered himself (up until his tragic, early death) to be a 'working writer', churning out mid-grade fiction in order to pay the bills and keep from punching a clock. I cannot help but assume, however, that he must have known how far above that standard he was writing when he penned this magnum opus in just a few short months.

Romance. Family Saga. Horror. Lovecraftian Weird. Southern Gothic. Epic Dynasty. Suspense. Ghost Story. To be honest, I have a hard time finding reading-friends to whom I would not recommend this book, whatever their particular interests. It crosses so many genre lines that I'd almost say it transcends the concept.

Quite possibly the first series in twenty years that has given me cause to shed tears at its conclusion, not so much for the events surrounding it (though they are impacting), but for the simple knowledge that it will not continue. ( )
2 vote Daninsky | Aug 19, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McDowell, Michaelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Langan, JohnIntroductionmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The maenad loves—and furiously defends herself against love’s importunity. She loves—and kills. From the depths of sex, from the dark, primeval past of the battles of the sexes arise this splitting and bifurcating of the female soul, wherein woman first finds the wholeness and primal integrity of her feminine consciousness. So tragedy is born of the female essence’s assertion of itself as a dyad.

Vyacheslav Ivanov, “The Essence of Tragedy”

Translated by Laurence Senelick
I will spunge out the sweetness of my heart,

And suck up horror; Love, woman’s thoughts I’ll kill,

And leave their bodies rotting in my mind,

Hoping their worms will sting; not man outside,

Yet will I out of hate engender much:

I’ll be the father of a world of ghosts,

And get the grave with carcase.

Thomas Lovell Beddoes, “Love’s Arrow Poisoned”
For Mama El
First words
At dawn on Easter Sunday morning, 1919, the cloudless sky over Perdido, Alabama, was a pale translucent pink not reflected in the black waters that for the past week had entirely flooded the town.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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