Perusing the aisles of my local bookstore, the book cover alone of David Rugerio’s novel can make one pause for a second look. Whether or not you’re inclined toward horror stories, the cover is worth a second glance. Once inside the pages, the storyline, like the cover, does not disappoint — for the hardiest of horror aficionados, or the virgin reader.
The author has cooked up something worthy of serving even to U.S. presidents, and he knows a little about feeding former Commanders in Chiefs—five, to be exact. Known as a top celebrity chef from his years with several famous New York restaurants, an author of two acclaimed cookbooks, and the host of his own cooking shows on the Food Network, it is not surprising that he would sir up a horror novel that keeps the reader craving that last bite.
“A Wistful Tale of Gods, Men and Monsters” is his debut novel, having garnished him the Maxy Award for Best Horror in 2019. From page one, this reader can see the reason for the accolades; however, one can get a false sense of security, settling in with a good cup of hot chocolate to look at life in what seems to be an idyllic little town blanketed in autumn. Enter the local young hero, who is thrown into the battle against evil forces which seem to have been shrouded, and shielded, by the locals for a great many years.
Those of us who have a yearning for the latest King or Koontz novel will not be disappointed. While he partakes from these authors, the story is all his own, and the mixture of ghouls that David has conjured up within the pages of this horror novel keep one fulfilled and entertained. The author’s descriptive narrative lets the reader imagine the sights and sounds that fill the little town of Brunswick, NY. From the cemetery to the funeral home, the novel maintains a chill on the spine of its reader. It keeps readers wanting to hear the how and when of why such a mysterious shadow has found its way to this town. Each character is developed slowly, in a thoughtful, incremental portrait, and these characters do not disappoint. You definitely cheer for the good guy and boo the villain, all the while looking over your shoulder for any repercussions that may arise from your alliances.
Rugerio’s novel is sprinkled with quotes from legendary horror novelists such as Poe and Shelly, with a mix of Scripture at the beginning of each chapter. The flashbacks fill in the blanks without entirely giving away the story, and keeps the reader reaching for some explanation — until the explosive climax. Mixed with the legend and folklore are small snippets of actual history, which heighten the intrigue. All this begs the question: sequel?