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Originally published in Hellnotes Newsletter

THE HELLNOTES BOOK REVIEW
Garrett Peck

I’M ON FIRE
By Kevin Quigley
(ebooksonthe.net; 328 pp.; $6.50 download; ISBN: 0963907018)

It’s still darn hard to get a first novel published by the major New York houses, no matter how good it is. This is a niche electronic publishers have been helping to fill. Author Kevin Quigley’s I’m On Fire has become a bestseller for ebooksonthe.net. I, for one, am not surprised. Quigley has done a good job promoting his book through his Stephen King website, Charnel House and through the SKEMERs e-mail club.

All the promotion in the world isn’t going to help you if your book isn’t up to snuff, however. Quigley’s got that problem nailed too. His book, though the work of a young writer earning his sea legs, shows he’s steady on his feet and promises great things to come.

Following the sage advice to “write what you know,” Quigley populates his book with well-developed high school students. His heroine, Laurie Reardon, is dealing with typical teenage angst. Once a social outcast, Laurie has reinvented herself as a pretty and popular girl on the cheerleading squad. Now she is finds trips to the mall and talking boys leaves her feeling empty. She forsakes them to concentrate on her studies. She has every reason to want to get out of her house, as she’s stuck with a wicked stepmother who resents any success she finds. She gets back together with an old boyfriend, whom she had forsaken after transforming herself into a swan while he remained an ugly duckling, even as her awakening sexuality finds her with a crush on her math teacher. As if the normal problems of puberty, schoolwork and a hellish home life aren’t enough to deal with, a serial killer has been tearing apart kids her age. Worse still, she has been having dreams of the murders. She becomes obsessed with learning the identity of the killer, even if it turns out the killer is herself.

Quigley’s genius is in misdirecting readers with an intriguing plot, then turning the story on its head with a development nearly as shocking as that found in Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying. He cons you into thinking you’re reading one kind of book, then goes in an unexpected direction and confounds expectation. This leaves the reader racing through the remainder of the book to see if he can pull the wool over their eyes again.

The author knows the conventions of horror and is effective in subverting them. The influence of King, Bloch, Levin and other genre giants is in evidence, but Quigley has his own voice and concerns. Add him to your list of writers to watch. His respect for what came before him, combined with a commitment to depth of character and story, should find him riding the crest of the new wave in horror.