Short Story Review: “Backbite” by Norman Partridge

3 of 5 stars.

Bad things happen in 3s, or so it’s said. This tale borrows from Lovecraft as it depicts two brothers and their hardscrabble life during the American Great Depression as 3 layers of horrors descend upon the duo. The Great World War scarred older brother Russell both mentally and physically [and he has the open, scarred eye socket to prove it]. Then the weather that caused the Dust Bowl in the American Heartland, rotted the fruit orchards of California. The migrant brothers drift from migrant camp to migrant camp to scrape up pennies.

Finally, the third and final horror smothers them. In an ill-thought quest to retrieve their hard-earned money, the brothers threaten and beat the man trying to deny them their pay. They forcibly take their money and then some and the foreman’s Ford. They eventually find a dead man’s house to squat in. After some weeks, with strange smells and sounds haunting them, muscle from the bank comes to evict them. Another fight, another stolen car, and the brothers find that all roads lead to deeper levels of trouble . . .

This tale appears in the New Lovecraftian anthology, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran. I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “In Beauty, Like the Night” and “The Hollow Man”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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