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Review by
Brian Knight
Dennis Latham
Page Free Publishing

In his second novel, MICHAEL IN HELL, Dennis Latham creates a frightening near future depiction, almost an alternate present, of life in the United States.

Set in Cincinnati, and a secret cabin in the woods near Saint Leon, Indiana, Michael In Hell is the story of Michael Tucker, a Vietnam Vet struggling to hold on to his humanity in a frightening new world of AIDS internment camps, race riots, and horrific state sanctioned executions. Beneath the surface of a man trying to survive in Latham's hostile future, hides a monster. Whether Michael Tucker's monster is supernatural or psychological in origin is left to the imagination (it seemed to hint of a supernatural origin, but never elaborated). The monster's only outlet is through Michael's hatred of pedophiles and child killers. Michael takes his victims to his cabin in the woods, recreating alternate mythical versions of hell, then lets the monster out to kill.

After Michael and his old war buddies Jerry Forbes and Billy Samuels fail to save his apartment from the fires of an inner city riot, he moves in with his girlfriend, Barbara. Under her watchful and needy eyes, he keeps the monster in check, for a while.

MICHAEL IN HELL worked on many different levels for me. At times it felt like light Science Fiction, with the technologies and "Disposal Machines" used in the Paddock Correctional Facility and the AIDS internment camps. At times it felt like a war story, with lots of shoot 'em up action, but from the real perspective of someone who has lived through the horrors of war in Vietnam. The accounts of abused and murdered children, and Michael Tucker's vigilante style justice, is the stuff of horror though.

MICHAEL IN HELL is a fast paced, exciting read that grabbed me from the first line:

Michael Tucker killed at night, in a one-room cabin he owned but did not live in, where the inside walls and window glass had been painted black and the window shutters were closed and locked.

and never let up. What surprised me most was Dennis Latham's ability in this work to make me feel not only sympathy for Michael Tucker, a serial killer, but to want to jump up and cheer him on.

Beneath everything else, MICHAEL IN HELL is a foggy mirror image of the world around us. All we need is a really good recession or depression, a sudden and sharp leaning to the far political right, and some government official to decide he could collect tax dollars on state executions, and we are most of the way there.

Dennis Latham is an ex-Marine who served in the Vietnam War, and his experiences come to play often in his work.

Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart or the queasy of stomach. I give Denis Latham's MICHAEL IN HELL 4 BookWyrms.


This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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