by Christopher Ryan
Clay McLeod Chapman is currently on what looks like a fun book tour for Ghost Eaters and more power to him. While that intriguing book is on the ever-growing TBR list, his 2021 novel Whisper Down the Lane leapt off the shelf this weekend. The experience was fast, fun, and rewarding.
Chapman’s horror novel about the 1980’s satanic panic features a dual timeline, weaving its tale in 1982/1983 and 2013, but the themes ring loudly and impressively true in 2022.
The overwhelming belief in what is demonstrably untrue by people who want and need it to be true devastates entire communities in 1983 and 2013 in the novel. Much to our national detriment, such insidiousness is even more prevalent in 2022. In all three eras, people suffer for succumbing to a variation on the evils of lying.
Chapman is a superb writer, a compelling storyteller, and a master of subtext. This novel never telegraphs, moralizes, or preachers. Instead, the author offers the story with such strength that the characters expertly run through the plot via action and dialogue while subtext and social commentary pulse just below, like a killer bass line and funky drum beat driving a hit song.
Having lived through the 1980’s satanic panic era when so many came to a judgment having already decided which conclusion should be reached no matter the facts, this novel intrigued. What was not expected was how powerfully the ruinous depictions of agenda-driven “investigations” and too easily accepted smears would resonate in today’s accusatory climate. The result is an impressive tale unencumbered by politics but offering powerful social food for thought.
The only thing better than a quick, satisfying read is one that also leaves the reader with something to reflect on long after closing the book. Chapman’s Whisper Down The Lane delivers all of that in captivating fashion.