Sunday, December 03, 2006

REVIEW: When Graveyards Yawn by G. Wells Taylor


The rain is constant. People have stopped aging. The dead have returned from the grave to resume their former lives.

And there are no more pregnancies. No births. No babies.

It can be depressing. But life goes on – and on, and on – after the Change.

Wildclown is a private investigator. His clown makeup hides more than his face. It masks the two souls that share his single body. Still, Wildclown gets by.

Then a murdered lawyer hires Wildclown to find his killer. The job is straightforward.

Until Wildclown hears a baby crying in the distance . . .


G. Wells Taylor is Virgil to my Dante. Yeltsin to my U.S.S.R. Angel to my Faith (Buffy, not Bible). Taylor led me through the darkness to a gleaming truth. He taught me that POD novels could be just as good as any contemporary fiction.

I do not recall how I stumbled across When Graveyards Yawn, or what possessed me to purchase it. However, I do know that until Graveyards, I believed that all POD books were garbage. Why else hadn’t a real publisher snatched them up?

By reading Graveyards, I discovered that a great novel is a great novel, no matter the route by which it becomes available. Sometimes books just fall through the cracks of the commercial publishing industry. Or maybe Taylor had reasons for not even submitting it. Whatever the reason for its POD status, I loved Graveyards, and it cured me of my anti-POD snobbery. (Unfortunately, like many self-appointed boosters for alternative media, I have contracted an equally stupid anti-big-publisher bias. But that is the subject for another post.)

Inspiration is a personal matter. Graveyards probably won’t have the same impact on you as it did on me. Nonetheless, there is much here to enjoy for anyone who appreciates hard-boiled mysteries (especially ones infused with apocalyptic overtones). There is real tension and menace to the world of the Change. The violence is abrupt, brutal, and convincing. The mystery of the murdered lawyer and the baby's cry, although essentially a MacGuffin, is well-handled to the very end. And Graveyard's other mystery, about Wildclown's past and the two minds that inhabit his body, gives the novel the emotional heft of a true noir classic.


One of the things I appreciate about Graveyards is its subtlety. That may be a strange comment to make about a novel that includes harrowing torture. But Wells treats his audience with respect. He does not spell everything out. He does not engage in random bursts of didactic exposition. Taylor wraps up the central murder mystery, but does not resolve all of the mysterious goings-on. Rather, he leaves the reader satisfied, but still searching. As a good writer should.


When Graveyards Yawn is available from PublishAmerica (or Amazon). Taylor has also published Wildclown Hard-Boiled, a collection of Wildclown short stories and a novella, through PublishAmerica. These stories are welcome, but on his website Taylor has been promising a real sequel for years. (Actually, the website describes two separate lines of forthcoming sequels: once focused on Wildclown himself, and one on the world of the Change). I’ve been waiting a very long time. But hope springs eternal . . .


The movie Hey! Stop Stabbing Me tells the story of Herman Schumacher, recent college graduate, as he tries to cope with life, a serial-killer roommate, and a monster that steals his socks. It is unlike When Graveyards Yawn in almost every way. Where Graveyards is essentially serious, Stabbing is a slapstick “kitchen-sink” comedy. Where Graveyards is polished and professional, Stabbing is amateurish and juvenile. Where I would wager that Graveyards took months (or longer) to create, Stabbing probably took a few weekends (or less).

However, just as Graveyards inspired me to explore POD novels, Stabbing taught me that microcinema films can be extraordinarily entertaining. The two together changed my life. They are jointly responsible for the untold hours and dollars I have spent searching POD and microcinema websites for my next POD art fix. Thanks, guys!

I make no promises that you will enjoy Stabbing as much as I did. But I found it hilarious, and if you’re after a good-natured, silly little serial-killer comedy and are willing to overlook the nonexistent production values, you may like it too.