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REVIEW: Where Evil Begins – Matt Converse

Where Evil Begins - Matt Converse

Genre: Horror

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Reviewer: Gordon

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About The Book

Tyler is a sexy young newbie to the New York City leather scene. When he eyes a muscled, masked stranger, his hunky best friend Andrés warns him to be careful due to the string of recent murders in the leather community.

The masked stranger hides more than his face, and that is revealed when you go back far enough. True evil is made, not born.

The Review

This novella, “Where Evil Begins” by Matt Converse, is fast-paced and well-constructed, featuring jumps from the present moment, where two friends, Tyler and Andrés, meet in a New York leather bar at a time when there has been a series of brutal murders in the community, to flashbacks of the actual murders themselves. In the present, Tyler is very attracted to an enormous, well-muscled man sporting a leather head mask, whom he refers to as Leather Head. As Tyler and Andrés speculate just how rough Leather Head might like his sex, and whether that would be too much for either of them, the vitally important question also hovers in their minds: Could this guy be the murderer?

The story development is good, and the climactic scene is fingernail-bitingly intense. Also, the nastiness that makes this a horror piece is related with a cold matter-of-factness that works extremely well. Add to that the writer’s use of short sentences, which combine to form a staccato-like style of pointed descriptions and dialogue, the overall effect is quite powerful.

The story is written in present tense, which took a bit of getting used to (it makes some of the short action sentences sound like stage directions). Also, from time to time there is confusion about what exactly the writer means across disparate observations, so that the reader must pause and think about what they add up to. For example: Tyler, who is in his early twenties, “still has some of the insecurities from his youth,” and yet, just a few sentences later he is described as having: “always had a quiet inner confidence, even in his teen years.” The reader is left with the job of working out just how the qualities of having insecurities and quiet inner confidence might combine.

But these are small if pernicious flaws, and “Where Evil Begins” remains a good, well-told story. On the other hand, it might have been a very good story if it had better explored one of the central aspects of the killer’s psyche: the psychology of his sexuality. What we are given again are different pieces that don’t seem to fit together well. The killer is described at one point as gay, but in the story, he doesn’t show any overt sexuality at all, unless you take murder as a kind of sublimated expression of repressed sexuality. And, if that were the case, the strain associated with such repression would tend to register in some way. Mutilation is a candidate, but that is done mechanically, and the reader is left with the burning question: How exactly does the murderer get off?

The Reviewer

About Gordon: Having received formal training in the world of science, Gordon has always found relief from the strictures of present-day reality in reading fiction, mostly fantasy, horror and sci-fi, fiction that explores regions of what is sometimes called the Kingdom of If. Here the rules can be virtually anything, allowing for greater possibilities of wonder and strange discovery. Gordon also writes, among other things, stories of M/M romance within these genres. This provides the opportunity for exploring how characters, some of them possibly not fully human, might act and react in truly strange circumstances. He writes romance because, of all the mind-blowingly possibilities inherent in the creation of imaginative worlds, the most mysterious and magical are the operations of the human heart itself, including its curious ability to grow when broken.  

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