So, so late with this review! Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon, beautifully narrated by George Newbern, which I listened to months ago during a fall horror binge, was released in October. Blame it on the old blogging slump, because I really loved listening to this story and could hardly bear having to turn it off to go to work, etc. It made my 2014 Favorites!
Originally published in 1991, Boy’s Life is a semi-autobiographical story of an 11-year-old boy growing up in a small Southern town in the early 1960s. After his father witnesses what appears to be a brutal murder by an unknown killer who knows the area (This is not an autobiographical part), Corey sees his father haunted by what he saw in the dead man’s face that morning and hopes he might find out who the killer is. But the murder mystery aspect is entirely secondary to the story of the quietly magical boyhood that a grown-up Cory Mackenson relates. There are monsters, carnival side shows, and mysterious townsfolk who seem to have supernatural powers, but the reader isn’t always sure what’s “real” and what stems from Cory’s imagination. (He’s a budding writer, after all.)
A realistic story with elements of dark fantasy, this memoir-style tale also includes insights into the craft of writing, frequent mentions of the pulp horror that Cory reads with relish, and memories of childhood that are un-sentimentally fond. On the front cover, a blurb by Peter Straub compares it to Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, which I haven’t read.
Author Robert McCammon has an interesting writing history. He was a major author in the horror genre during the 70s and 80s (when the popularity of Stephen King’s books pushed horror fiction into the mainstream) and even started The Horror Writers of America organization, but retired from the field completely in 1999 after writing a work of historical fiction and finding he was too pigeonholed as a horror writer to get it published and disliking the direction that horror fiction was taking.
For more about the author, check out this article and interview in Nightmare from June 2013. Also his introduction to the new edition of Boy’s Life, which is his favorite and best among his own works.
There was no audiobook edition of Boy’s Life until Simon & Schuster Audio produced this downloadable audiobook, available from iTunes, Audible, etc. As far as I can tell it’s not available to purchase on CD. You might also be able to borrow it through your public library audiobook download service! Listen to a 2-minute sample here, or a 5-minute sample here.
Newbern, George, narrator
Simon Audio, October 2014
9781442374621, MP3 download
20 hours, 4 minutes
Disclosure: I received a free digital download from the publisher for review purposes.