I write short stories and screenplays mostly in the horror genre. Several of my short stories have been published including one about a Kumiho (Korean Werefox). I regularly blog about writing, the horror genre and reviews at https://www.facebook.com/davidjenkinswriter
Dead Leaves by Andrew David Barker review
Plot - The year is 1983, Scott and his friends are drifting though life drinking, talking about girls, and watching horror movies. But that all changes when the ‘Video Nasty’ panic starts, in their search for a copy of The Evil Dead they discover what is truly important in life.
A famous critic once said it’s hard to review art without something similar to compare it to and this is quite true here. This story is about the quest of three lads to watch Evil Dead against the background of the 1980s and video nasties therefore the only similar things I have seen (not read) are Detroit Rock City and Monty Python’s Holy Grail. This type of story hangs on the obstacles that stop the characters from succeeding and the relationship between the friends more so then other genres which have a stronger plot.
So first of the obstacles come in shape of girlfriend woes, Video nasties, drunks, unemployment and nagging parents most of which we can relate to. All of these obstacle are presented in realistic ways and occasionally build upon each other to frustrate the characters even more. The characters are also relatable from the serious guy older than the others with a job and pissed off at people who haven’t got one, to the disgruntled youth who reckons there’s no point getting a job and finally the dreamer who has people constantly on his back to get a job. These are people we knew when we were young and maybe they are the people we were. Another positive is the language used in the book is accurate portrayal of youth, with bits of Derby slang thrown in which adds to the realistic tone of the book. I like the black comedy in the book including the occasional one sentence chapters like end of one chapter- this wasn’t going to end well. Next chapter- It didn’t. Although it was getting a bit repetitive towards the end. Lastly on the positive front I’d like to say the special edition of the book with its VHS box sleeve is a nice touch although I didn’t understand the cover; Is it a camera on a leaf, the colours used are effective though.
There were some things I didn’t enjoy though. The portrayal of police where they are publicly just blind sheep (nod to 1980s Thatcher police) but in private they are working against the system is cliché. Spoiler I don’t think it’s realistic that Police invite them to where the films are stored at the end, particularly as they’d just been brawling a few pages before. Another problem is with ’Dead’ in the title I expect some more horror scenes and apart from getting battered in a deserted shopping centre and found by druggies there’s nothing. The ‘Leaves’ part of the title is good though with its reference to autumn setting and I think it’s a metaphor about how the youths have no control of their lives really and are just being blown away by stronger forces. The plot (quest for Evil Dead) goes missing at some points to show how bad their lives are which is interesting but makes it seem more like a memoir rather than fiction.
Overall, as a memoir type story for what it was like to be a kid in the 1980s this is a good story with nice doses of humour. But the plot and character portrayal goes missing at points and I expected more horror from the story and for that reason I’d give it a 3/5.