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Features

LocalLit book review: 'The River Witch' by D. Paul Cooley

This is the first time I'm reviewing a book you cannot, apparently, buy anymore. However, according to Goodreads, an online site for readers, copies are available at the Coal City Public Library District and the Wilmington Library District.
This is the first time I'm reviewing a book you cannot, apparently, buy anymore. However, according to Goodreads, an online site for readers, copies are available at the Coal City Public Library District and the Wilmington Library District.

The author biography of the now out-of-print "River Witch" by D. Paul Cooley calls Cooley the "new master of sci-fi horror."

At the time, I thought the self-written bio was a little presumptuous. Now, 15 years after reading "River Witch" for the first time, I'm inclined to agree with it.

Online reviews knocked the story saying it needed more editing. If they mean, copy editing, then probably yes, but I didn't find the book abounding with errors.

Compared to a lot of self-published or vanity press published stories I've read, this one had relatively few - and none detracted from the disquieting mood Cooley set.

The most glaring was "steak" as opposed to "stake," the sort of spell check error most of us see - and make.

But as far as readability, "River Witch" reminded me of the early John Saul books I'd read in high school and college, such as "Come the Blind Fury" and "When the Wind Blows."

Here is the Amazon description for "The River Witch," which really doesn't explain the gist of the book.

"In the center of Illinois-a town carved between a river and a stream-Windchester Island holds many dark secrets and myths, and the horrible, terrifying shadows that dance between the homes of the locals as they sleep, and the childlike whispers that fill the night with horror.

"But no one knows of the real evil that haunts their quaint town, except for the averse high school teenagers that are forced to play, and the detestable screams of the young...."

First of all, this is the only book I've read with a five-chapter prologue, and I liked it (I'm a fan of prologues anyway, if they are well done). These first chapters set up the influence surrounding the town and added to the horror as it unfolded in the lives of these teens.\

Like many of Saul;s early works, Cooley tells this story in multiple points of view, but he doesn't hop from head to head. But when a chapter switches to the terror of yet another teen, the reader gets a wider (and scarier) view of what is happening to these kids.

Plus, "River Witch" has some nice creepy writing:

Suddenly, through his fingers, he could see a light.It was bright and white as a dove.He looked up, expecting to see a boat pass along the river (they were rare, but every now and again he would see them, their massive sails, slipping down the river). But there was no boat, just a small, blinding light that dangled above the water.

She could hear their footsteps coming down the hall.The whispering was getting louder, now clearly the voices of many children in prayer. Even though the words were indistinguishable, they gave off the tone of a little child kneeling at the side of his or her bed.

Suddenly, Craig did not hear the girl anymore. No screams, no pleas for help. Was she dead? Were they coming for him next? The sound of metal slamming against something hard startled him. His heart thumped in his chest and he felt another tear from his only eye. Then, he could hear something scratching, like cat claws against wood. It was coming closer to

Know more about LocalLit

Each week LocalLit will deliver an original short and family-friendly story (or a book review) by a local author to the newsletter's subscribers.  

Authors with a connection to our readership area may submit.  Submission does not guarantee acceptance.

Story submissions should be edited and between 1,000 words and 7,500 words. Featured authors will be spotlighted  in publications before the newsletter runs so readers have time to sign up.

To submit and for more information, contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 ordunland@shawmedia.com.

To sign up for the free LocalLit newsletter, visit theherald-news.com/newsletter/locallit/#//.

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