BUMP Review

by Sean McLaughlin

By: Sean McLaughlin   


      Writer Mark Kidwell, highly regarded as a creator and artist for Image Comics, took all of his horror knowledge and passion and decided to take a stab at books. The result is Bump, a novel that pulls the reader in and pushes them down the slow road to karma and unimaginable evil. Written in the style of most notable literary giants of the genre, Kidwell is masterful at painting a picture with his words while giving his characters, even those responsible for the mayhem, enough substance that we become emotionally invested in their predicaments. The payoffs come about in their demise or their redemption, although the latter is surely a scarce commodity in Kidwell’s world of vengeance and bloodletting.

      Bump follows Sheriff Gil Lundy, a flawed hero that made an ill-fated decision in his past to protect his town, but more importantly his young daughter, from ever to having to face pure evil personified again. Out of sight, out of mind…..or so he thought. A deranged man named Edgar Dill, on a self-realized mission to “clean” all young women and set them down the path to becoming an angel, has been scooping up gullible drifters and performing unthinkable procedures in an effort to “save” them. When his gruesome crusade, which involved carving life-sized wooden mannequins and placing the victim’s sex organs inside of padlocked drawers within, is uncovered, Lundy and his men make a decision to wipe the evil-doers (Dill and his overly-protective and psychotic mother) out and cover the up the very existence of this horrific den of revulsion. Following a timeline of 30 years, a period in which these citizens have grown up and started families and have seen their careers begin to wind down in the inevitable twilight, the entire notion of pure evil (which Kidwell gives an almost physical embodiment to) begins to fester and crave blood after three decades of laying dormant and unsatisfied. You can’t outrun your shady past, and one day the chickens come home to roost. These are lessons that Lundy and his family, friends, and even innocent bystanders are forced to face….with horrific results.

      If Lundy is the imperfect protagonist, struggling mightily to keep the lid on pandora’s box, then Dill is the tortured soul which forces a wide spectrum of emotions from the reader. Kidwell is masterful at creating a horror character embodying both compassion and contempt, as Dill’s perceived mission conflicts completely with his murderous actions. I will admit that the first part of the book seems like an exercise in descriptive novel-writing 101, as the author chooses to set the mood of Dill’s first appearance by describing every little thing in tremendous detail before actually beginning any dialogue or action. At first, this slow start seems tedious……however, once the storyline kicks in it grabs a hold of your neck and never lets go. It is difficult to create a 30-year passage of time and make it seem like a flawless transition, but Kidwell was more than up to the task. This makes the fact that Bump is his first novel all the more astonishing.

      Kidwell admits that he was torn a bit when writing Bump, as to which element of horror (slasher vs. supernatural) he wanted to incorporate. His “splatterpunk roots”, on display in his comics, were making him gravitate towards the slasher genre. But at the same time, he wanted to incorporate the old-school “campfire ghost story” feel into the book. Luckily, Kidwell was able to successfully blend both of these styles to create a blood-thirsty, savage tale of butchery which morphs into one the most insane paranormal experiences that would spook even the most intense reader. If nothing else, I can assure that they’d never look at a life-sized wooden mannequin again (if they’re ever in such an unfortunate situation to do so, that is).

      Bump is an ultra-violet, uber-gory tale of what happens when dark secrets are allowed to fester, and pure evil comes home to roost. Mark Kidwell hits a home run with his first novel, and we can only hope that the movie version of Bump (which Kidwell claims to have produced the screenplay for) is true to the novel. If so, get ready for an insane ride of mayhem, debauchery and bloodletting. Bump is a worthy entry into the long lineage of horror novel brilliance, and more than earns its place at the table. The tag line for Bump is “A Ghost Story With Teeth”; truer words may never have been spoken.

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