Dad of Divas' Reviews: Book Review - The Black Garden

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review - The Black Garden

About the Book
McFarland’s novel takes place in St. Odile, the dark counterpart of the historic French Colonial town of Ste. Genevieve in Missouri.  Stories of his family’s long and colorful history in this area fueled his imagination and encouraged him to write The Black Garden (The Patrice Press).   One story that never failed to excite him was about an ancestor from his mother’s side who was taken out west by raiders after being orphaned in Pennsylvania during an Indian raid, sold to a French missionary priest for five barrels of whisky, and later became one of the earlier patriarchs of this quaint and traditional little town.

McFarland cleverly weaved this historic little French town into his story, adding richness to the plot by distorting the town’s charm into something foreboding and sinister.  In a market rife with pubescent vampires and courageous vampire hunters, his on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller pays homage to the classic 19th century tales of horror with its overtones of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley and the like, and is set to become the ‘stuff’ of nightmares.
The year is 1882 and Perdita Badon-Reed, a sheltered Boston aesthete, has just made the most momentous decision of her life.  Having spurned a respectable suitor, she finds herself on the Mississippi River, steaming toward the strange French Colonial village of St. Odile to accept a teaching position at an academy for girls where she can pursue her dream of becoming a stone sculptor. Of the many hardships that await, the one she least expects looms in the form of Orien Bastide, an incubus who has conducted his seductive and parasitic existence for two millennia. It doesn’t take Perdita long to realize the full horror of Bastide’s intentions and come to the conclusion that she alone has the will to stop him.  In order to defeat the treacherous Bastide and save future generations from his advances, Perdita must not only abandon her personal ambitions but possibly – most frightening of all – her life!
John McFarland is no stranger to horror fiction, having written short stories for such publications as The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, Charon II and in the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, along with work by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft.  He has published mainstream fiction in numerous literary journals and has written extensively on historical subjects ranging from Jack the Ripper to Hollow Earth theory and early 20th century spiritualism.

Readers will be happy to learn The Black Garden is the first of three novels on the history of demonic host, Orien Bastide.  The author is currently working on a sequel, Asmiel's Daughter, as well as a prequel set during the Black Death: Bastide.  Please visit this creative writer at his website:

About the Author
The fictional village of Ste. Odile, strangely out of place and time, sequestered and forgotten on the banks of the Mississippi, is the dark counterpart of the real historic French Colonial town of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. My family has a long history in this area, going back one hundred and sixty years on my father’s side and over two hundred and sixty years on my mother’s side. My maternal grandmother was of pure French ancestry, and enjoyed taking me, as a child who loved history, to the quaint old town of Ste. Genevieve, with it’s Creole architecture and festive French traditions reaching back to the early decades of the eighteenth century. She liked to tell me of our family connection to the town through a great-grandfather who had been orphaned in Pennsylvania in an Indian raid during the days of the French and Indian War, brought west by the band of raiders and sold to a French missionary priest at Fort de Chartres in Illinois territory, for five barrels of whiskey. As a grown man, the ancestor moved across the Mississippi to Ste. Genevieve and became one of it’s earliest patriarchs. The story galvanized my interest in the history of the region, and as an evolving writer, I began to wonder how I could use the old French town in a work of fiction.

As a teen I loved the classic horror tales of the nineteenth century: Frankenstein, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Carmilla, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula. Having written mainstream short fiction and drama though my mid twenties, as I approached thirty, I returned to my earlier passion and started writing short horror fiction which appeared in such publications as The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, Charon II and in the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, along with work by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft.

 It finally struck me, by distorting the charm and tradition of Ste. Genevieve into something foreboding and sinister, that the old French town would serve as a perfect backdrop for a horror story. In a market awash with pubescent vampires and plucky vampire hunters, I wanted to make my story a homage to the great fictions I had loved as a teen, but with a less exhausted and overworked ancient evil. I settled on the incubus.

Students of the genre will recognize my debts, in The Black Garden, to Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Sheridan Lefanu, Bram Stoker, M.R. James, and H.P. Lovecraft.  The Black Garden is the first of three novels on the history of demonic host Orien Bastide.  The series will also include a sequel in the works now, Asmiel's Daughter, as well as a prequel set during the Black Death:  Bastide.  I am also preparing a related, but not sequential ghost story set in a crumbling Ste. Odile during the great depression:  Phrygia House.

My Take on the BookAs you are transported into a time that is far unlike our own, you are drawn into the dark corners of the pages of this tale. I say tale, as it is one that draws you in and makes you want to simply continue reading on. I was impressed at the research that the author did on the book itself, and even more-so, on how well the book flows and the characters are developed and shared with the reader. Seeing that this is only the start of three novels, if the rest are any indication to the first, they will be greatly sought after!

If this book sounds like something that you would like in your own home you can find it on Amazon!
All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Terms of Use  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.
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