FROM A BRAM STOKER AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF DARK SUSPENSE COMES A HARROWING TRIP INTO PURE TERROR…WILDWOOD ROADMichael and Jillian Dansky seemed to have it all-a happy marriage, two successful careers, a bright future. But late one October evening, all that changed. Driving home from a Halloween masquerade, Michael momentarily nods off behind the wheel-and wakes to find nothing is the same.Standing by his car is the little girl he came within a breath of running down. She leads Michael to her "home," an empty house haunted by whispers, and sends him away with a haunting whisper of her own: "come find me." But in the weeks to follow, it's clear that someone-or some thing-doesn't want Michael to find her: ominous figures in grey coats with misshapen faces are following him everywhere. And then Jillian wakes one morning replaced by a cold, cruel, vindictive woman Michael hardly recognizes as his wife. Michael must now search not only for the lost girl, but for a way to find the Jillian he's always loved, and to do so he must return to where the nightmare began. Down an isolated lane where he'll find them, or die trying.
Anxieties over marriage, home and work amplify the eeriness of Golden's engrossing suburban horror novel. Michael and Jillian Dansky are heading home from a Halloween party when they give a young girl on the road a lift to a strange old mansion. She leaves them with the injunction to "come find me," and suddenly their lives are no longer the same. Michael, art director at an advertising firm, begins to incorporate the girl's features into his illustrations. When he tries to locate the house and its road, he can't. Then a coven of grotesque, wraithlike women attack him and Jillian, who's transformed into a brittle and bitchy harridan. Michael realizes his survival depends on retracing his steps on that fateful night and finding the elusive girl. Golden (The Boys Are Back in Town, etc.) knows how to craft suspense, but the bizarre incidents create expectations that the climax only partly satisfies, and the horror, once explained, has a preachy, politically correct edge. Still, this above-average stab at Stephen King-style horror draws the reader irresistibly into its mystery. (Apr. 5) FYI: Cemetery Dance (www.cemeterydance. com) is publishing the cloth edition ($40 ISBN 1-58767-119-0). Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 28, 2005
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Excerpt from Wildwood Road by Christopher Golden
The night of the masquerade was a kind of mad, risque waltz, the voices louder and the laughter giddier than anyone would have expected. That was the nature of masks.
Michael Dansky leaned against the wall with a Guinness in his hand and studied the ebb and flow of the bright costumes and the body language beneath them. There was something about a masquerade that changed people. Inhibitions slipped away, and not only because of the alcohol present. The question, Michael thought, was whether putting on a mask allowed the wearer to lose themselves in the pretense that they were someone else, or if hiding their faces let them show more of who they really were, down inside.
The Wayside Inn was a charming spot where one could imagine the nineteenth century had never ended. From across the ballroom, Michael watched his wife Jillian move through the masquerade in her Elizabethan gown, smiling beneath an elegant half-mask. Michael had never thought of her as anything less than sexy, but tonight she was more than that. There was a sultriness to the way she moved across the floor, a sensuality in her eyes behind that mask, that took his breath away. As she passed through the room another woman caught her arm and the two struck up a conversation of smiles and moving lips, words lost amidst the churning voices of the masquerade. Jillian's hair was a rich chestnut brown, and her hazel eyes seemed alight with mischief. The woman she spoke to was a thin blonde dressed as a genie.
Michael pushed away from the wall and started across the ballroom toward them. He was vaguely aware that the bottle of Guinness in his hand undermined the effectiveness of his own costume: the cape, boots, hat, and blade of the dashing D'Artagnan of Three Musketeers fame. Yet there was a swagger in his walk that might have sprung from either the ale or the costume, or more likely both.
The ballroom was accented by a pair of grand staircases that curled up either side of the room to a second-story balcony that looked down on the main floor. There were chandeliers, but nothing so garish as what he had seen at weddings held in hotel ballrooms. The masquerade was an annual event held in support of the Merrimack Valley Children's Hospital, and in the three years since their marriage he and Jillian had never missed it. It was Saturday night, three days before Halloween, and though the holiday had become overrun with more modern costumes, the organizers of the event insisted that no one wear a disguise inspired by something post-1900. The music in the room was under the same restriction. Some people Michael had spoken to were bothered by the lack of familiar dance music, but others made the best of it, attempting minuets and waltzes, and even a quadrille, which Miri Gallaway and Victoria Peristere taught the attendees every year.
Michael loved it all. The music and the period costumes harkened back to a simpler time, an era in which people believed in mystery. He worked as an art director for Krakow & Bester, an advertising firm out of Andover, and though his work allowed him to explore the history of styles and images, it also exposed him to far too many people whose minds were an arid desert of imagination.