Before going back to St. Louis, Missouri (where he was born and raised), writer and screenwriter Erik D. Harshman spent time in Santa Fe, New Mexico (a half-hour drive from Albuquerque), at the College of Santa Fe, where he earned in BA in English. Humansville is a short horror novel, one that relies on character but is not shy from getting a bit gory and gooey if called for.
The story centers on a small town known as Humansville, a real location that is part of the Springfield Metropolitan area. The story is a familiar one of demons that are sent from hell to wreck havoc (what the demons call “work) upon the town by using and abusing the human population. Standing in their way is the Archangel Michael, as well as a secret operative by the name of Samael, who in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore is known as an accuser, seducer and destroyer (and has characteristics of both good and evil).
At 152 pages, the book is a short but intense read. Harshman has a knack for creating interesting characters, and in this case his four demons in human form (wolves in sheep’s clothing) are chilling, hateful, and hideous but also charismatic, engaging, and often quite funny. The dialogue throughout is effective, injecting humor as needed but also setting chilling scenes of hideous acts and disgusting deeds.
There are two problems with the book that may make readers question whether they wish to read it. First, the story structure has been explored before, principally in films going as far back as The Sentinel and The Prophecy (the one with Christopher Walkin) and as recent as Gabriel and Legion. And second, the book’s horror is really focused on terror, with the gore and violence only hinted at. Even when struck head on, the scenes are quickly described. What’s of import here is the battle between good and evil, and in particular on the character of Samael, who must withstand the slings and arrows of the leader, Leviathan.
Those who have doubts about reading this book should understand that Harshman is a gifted writer, one with a knack for effective dialogue and for creating engaging characters. Now, Harshman did not have solid editorial help, as there are many grammatical faults throughout the novel, which range from minor typos to more serious fare, including missing words and misplaced modifiers.
Those of you looking for a quick read would do well to pick up Harshman’s Humansville. I am rather excited to have found this writer, as I believe he can only become better. He has the storytelling chops of a Stephen King—given stronger editorial support, Erik Harshman will impress even more of the horror community, I have no doubt.