When I discovered the books of John Saul in the late nineties, he quickly became my go-to for damned good horror. I devoured Suffer the Children, The Unloved, and Second Child in succession, and after a short break, went back for more. Currently, I’ve read nineteen of John Saul’s novels, and the latest, Hellfire, is right up there on my list of favorites.
In true John Saul fashion, Hellfire centers on a young protagonist, Beth, who wants more than anything to fit in. Hellfire is complete with a broken family, a spoiled, malevolent stepsister, Tracy, and the twisted, psychotic matriarch, Abigail, who just can’t seem to keep her nose where it belongs. When Beth’s mother, Carolyn, marries the rich Philip Sturgess, Carolyn and Beth move to Hilltop, the Sturgess home.
Beth isn’t happy at Hilltop, and finds herself fascinated with the old shoe mill on the property, which caught fire and has been shut down for many decades. Strange things happen in the mill – including the deaths of two boys under the same eerie circumstances several decades apart – but when Beth believes she’s made contact with the spirit of a young girl who died there a century earlier, things go from bad to disastrous.
One of my favorite things about John Saul’s books is that you never know how they’re going to end. Sometimes the good guys win, and sometimes the baddies conquer all. Hellfire is an example of Saul’s mastery of the surprise ending, and I’d recommend this book to horror-lovers of every stripe.
After many, many years, John Saul remains one of my favorite horror authors and if you haven’t checked him out, I urge you to do so. If you want a better feel for what he does, check out our interview with him at Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! where we talked to him about horror, writing, and his long prolific career. He was as charming, fun, and fascinating as I could have ever hoped he’d be, and it was an honor to spend time with him. To listen to his show, click here.