No, this is not your tweeners' Twilight, but think for a heartbeat or two on a world that would've given this title the prominance and attention that other book got. This writer died last year at 70 years of age. He should be remembered, but history is slim on guys like him. And this read just might give you insight on why that is. Or, at least a judgement line in the sand between entertainment and value in terms of an artists' contributive price.
But then, unlike the popular heartthrob Twilight, there's no love line in this Southern Gothic title, except the one that splits and tailspins before reaching its destination. Its' ends flutter unfulfilled, withering against the deadfalls of love longed for and love's pageant de-animated to fetish. In this twister, love never comes close to finding ground, nor is it seriously sought. There's a sense that it stopped by here sometime ago, along with Decency and Grace, but has moved on. It is still very much a requisite, but people're not sure how it works anymore.
Plot immediately speed shifts into gear when bereaved siblings Brendon and Corrie Tyler discover improprieties in the freshly-buried casket of their recently-deceased father. Seems as if local undertaker Fenton Breece loves his job just a little too much. Plus he has a real issue with the townsfolk in particular and humanity in general. He hates and disrespects them all. Riding on the reputation and power of his passed-away father—who established this morturary business—he has become more and more eccentric and compulsive, while acting out his covert hostilities on the community. He desecrates their dead loved ones by stuffing putrid trash in the caskets, burying them without clothes or in bizarrely-inappropriate attire, or—sit down for this one—fashioning them into his personal amor doll for the ultimate fetish after hours from any open casket spectacle.
By astute observation—or convenient coincidence—Kenneth Tyler pulls a grab ‘n' go on Breece and comes up with the blackmailer's grail: “nude women . . . all unmistakably dead . . . grouped in mimicry of . . . sexual congress . . . their faces painted in carmine smiles”; photographs—some with even a naked penguin-like Breece included—as “picture postcards mailed from Hell”(MacAdam/Cage, ISBN 1596920580, c.2006, p.23). At this point, Breece is not far enough along in his delusional world to shrug off the danger. He hires the “nightmare dread”(p.58) of the town to get the necrophilic evidence: Granville Sutter, a man who recently tampered the jury of his murder trial by murdering the lone peer objecting to his acquittal. Think Anton Chigurh without his pneumatic cowpuncher from McCarthy's No Country For Old Men. From this point on, Twilight follows the trailblazer Night of the Hunter from 1953 by Davis Grubb(1). It becomes a series of events, people met, and traps set while Sutter pursues Tyler relentlessly day and night. They tromp a hellish landscape of abandoned mine shafts, poisoned earth, clearcuts and mud swamps, deserted ore-rush towns and farming plantations—all shuffled up into a maze of blocked, lost roads and paths, and streams re-routed by deadfalls from the 1933 tornado. “Even compasses go fey and unreliable”(p.87) in these geographic badlands known as the Harrikin.
Against this background, author Gay plays out his four characters. Well, actually three, since Corrie goes down early and undeveloped. Their dance is not new, but the clothing—oh my. Second-tier characters enliven the oppressing hues of the landscape, while the plot runs its fateful course through a “world of mystery that bypassed the comprehension of men and did not even take them into consideration”(p.223).
And Tyler reflects that his experiences has made him a wiser man continuing this “reckless world”, but as “a more sinister self”(p.224) than before.