By Adam Cesare
Publisher: Broken River Books
Pub Date: February 1, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I like reading younger writers; Those that are still fine tuning their art and hustling the genre magazines to find an audience. It is in these young authors that we find the real innovators, the ones that aren't afraid to stretch the boundaries. I have always kept my eyes open for the "new thing" in suspense and horror. What that "new thing" is I rarely know exactly but it is usually from the writer that is not afraid to break a few taboo minded eggs along the way. Yet it is also a writer steeped in the tradition and knows that real innovation is built on the foundations of the masters.
Adam Cesare seems to be one of those writers. His barely-a-novella (between 80 to 100 pages) The First One you Expect has the type of grittiness that you might find in a Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine But then there's that plot. The author not only gives us a modern plot steeped in the world of basement budget indie movie-making and Kickstarter campaigning but a plot that might send Mickey Spillane looking for a barf bag.
The plot centers around a wanna-be horror movie directer named Tony who lives with his mom and makes very low-budget, cheap effects films that caters to a small group of blood and gore aficionados. It's the on-the-edge group of movie makers and fans that seem not too far away from confusing fantasy with reality. in other words, "the first ones you expect". The cheapish videos feature his movie-making partner and friend Burt who played a serial killer called The Debaser. They muddle along fairly well between their passion and their day jobs until Tony meets Anna, a fame hungry wanna-be actress that holds a strange attraction to Tony and takes his movie making abilities to areas that he would rather not go. Anna is written with just the right amount of sexiness and craziness that we like her and are ready to see where the writer is taking her...and us. When we get to the middle of the novella, we find out. It may not be totally unexpected but Cesare writes it so wel we can't avoid having our nerves jerked around a bit and maybe seeing if Mickey Spillane left the barf bags in grabbing distance. It's a great scene. But it is so good that the aftermath feels a little tame and drags slightly. Tag on a too sudden ending and I end up thinking I read a fantastic half of a story. However, it is such a fantastic half that it manages to carry the tale and stay in my mind for a while to come.
The First One You Expect is a bit of a hybrid between suspense and horror. It also fits firmly into the splatter-punk sub-genre. Splatter-punk appears to be a niche that the author excels at based on this brief novel. Even with my reservations on the end, this was a fine introduction to an author who has the promise of unnerving readers for a long time in the future.