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Published by Valancourt Books on 10.9.17
Genres: Dark Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Psychological Horror, Southern Gothic, Supernatural
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Blackwater is the saga of a small town, Perdido, Alabama, and Elinor Dammert, the stranger who arrives there under mysterious circumstances on Easter Sunday, 1919. On the surface, Elinor is gracious, charming, anxious to belong in Perdido, and eager to marry Oscar Caskey, the eldest son of Perdido's first family. But her beautiful exterior hides a shocking secret. Beneath the waters of the Perdido River, she turns into something terrifying, a creature whispered about in stories that have chilled the residents of Perdido for generations. Some of those who observe her rituals in the river will never be seen again....
Originally published as a series of six volumes in 1983, Blackwater is the crowning achievement of Michael McDowell, author of the Southern Gothic classics Cold Moon Over Babylon and The Elementals and screenwriter of Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. This first-ever one-volume edition will allow a new generation of listeners to discover this modern horror classic.
Blackwater: The Complete Saga on audio is absolutely phenomenal! Phenomenal! That’s right, it’s so good, it deserves two PHENOMENALS.
First-about the book itself. Michael McDowell was a force to be reckoned with as far as writing about family dynamics. If you’ve read The Elementals, Gilded Needles, or Cold Moon over Babylon, (and if you haven’t you SHOULD), you already know that McDowell writes about families like no one else. Now imagine those books expanded to cover several generations of one family, in this case The Caskeys, and you might have an inkling of how great a work of literature, (that’s right, I’m calling it literature), Blackwater really is.
Starting with a huge flood in Perdido, Alabama and a mysterious woman found in a partially flooded hotel and ending with another flood in the same town, there is a symmetry here not often found in horror fiction. Perhaps it’s because Blackwater isn’t really a horror novel, (or series of novels, as it was originally released back in the 80’s), at all. I would describe it more as a Southern Gothic soap opera or family saga, with supernatural and horrific elements.
One of the things I adore about McDowell, and there are many of them, (click here for my essay on McDowell’s work), is how he treats horrifying supernatural events as if they were no big deal. Somehow, the way he does that makes the event even more horrifying, if that makes any sense.
Of course, as I mentioned above, McDowell writes family dynamics like no one else and this book proves it. Throughout generations even, McDowell is at the top of his game writing about this family with its rich men and domineering women. Being from Alabama himself, the authenticity of the family’s bearing and standing in their community of Perdido is never in doubt. His insights into human behavior are unmatched and beautifully written-without fail. Here’s a quote from the first book of this novel,The Flood, (which takes place in the early 1920’s):
That was the great misconception about men: because they dealt with money, because they could hire someone on and later fire him, because they alone filled state assemblies and were elected congressional representatives, everyone thought they had power. Yet all the hiring and firing, the land deals and the lumber contracts, the complicated process for putting through a constitutional amendment-these were only bluster. They were blinds to disguise the fact of men’s real powerlessness in life. Men controlled the legislatures, but when it came down to it, they didn’t control themselves. Men had failed to study their own minds sufficiently, and because of this failure they were at the mercy of fleeting passions; men, much more than women, were moved by petty jealousies and the desire for petty revenges. Because they enjoyed their enormous but superficial power, men had never been forced to know themselves the way that women, in their adversity and superficial subservience, had been forced to learn about the workings of their brains and their emotions.
I could go on and on about McDowell, as many of you already know, but now I’d like to address the narration of this story by Alabama native Matt Godfrey.
I just don’t have the words to describe how McDowell’s words, combined with Godfrey’s narration, made me feel. Together, they made a great work even greater. Godfrey’s voicing was so true to the source material it made the Caskey voices come alive. ALIVE, I say! I laughed out loud many times, and I cried a few times too.
I most especially adored his voicing of James and of Oscar. Don’t get me wrong, I loved these characters back when I first read the books a few years ago; but with Matt’s voice attached to them, they became larger than life. It was easy for me to recognize who was talking just by the inflections and changes of tone. I’ve never listened to an audio book where it was easier for me to identify who was who, just by how the narrator voiced them. I’ve listened to a lot of audios over the last few years, and that’s never happened to me-at least not in a book with as many characters as Blackwater. That’s why I say now, with no reservations, that this is the BEST audiobook I’ve ever read. PERIOD.
I hope that I’ve convinced you to give this audio a try by giving it my HIGHEST recommendation. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you do give it a go.
*I received this audiobook free, from the narrator, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.* **Further, I consider Matt Godfrey a friend, even thought we’ve never met, but this review IS my honest opinion.**
About Matt Godfrey
Matt Godfrey has never been able to consume enough stories. Books, movies, plays – anything. So he studied Acting and English in college, and now he gets to tell stories all day. He loves a good haunted house book, Crimson Tide football, black coffee, and the Oxford comma. He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his two favorite people, his wife and daughter.
About Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell was born June 1, 1950 in Enterprise, Alabama and attended public schools in southern Alabama until 1968. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in English from Harvard, and in 1978 he was awarded his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Brandeis.
His seventh novel written and first to be sold, The Amulet, was published in 1979 and would be followed by over thirty additional volumes of fiction written under his own name or the pseudonyms Nathan Aldyne, Axel Young, Mike McCray, and Preston Macadam. His notable books include the Southern Gothic horror novel The Elementals (1981), the serial novel Blackwater (1983), which was first published in a series of six paperback volumes, and the trilogy of “Jack & Susan” books.
By 1985 he was writing screenplays for television, including episodes for a number of anthology series such as Tales from the Darkside, Amazing Stories, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Tales from the Crypt. He went on to write the screenplay for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), as well as the script for Thinner (1996). McDowell died December 27, 1999 from AIDS-related illness. Tabitha King, wife of author Stephen King, completed an unfinished McDowell novel, Candles Burning, which was published in 2006.