It’s a true frustration that I haven’t been able to squeeze in a review of Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne as I think it sounds magnificent. However, I am thrilled to share a guest post from Isaac to celebrate the book’s recent publication.
Hell Spring was released on 16th September and is available for purchase through the links here.
In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.
An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.
Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?
Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?
A Guest Post by Isaac Thorne
The weather as an antagonist is something that has always fascinated me. Stephen King’s short story The Reach and the miniseries Storm of the Century both explore that a little. As do action thrill rides like the movies Twister and Hard Rain.
When I started writing my new novel Hell Spring during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, I decided to use severe thunderstorms and flash flooding as a tool of the primary antagonist. I also chose to use the weather as the secondary antagonist because extreme weather is terrifying. Extreme weather complicit in monsters’ evil deeds is even more so.
Something about the helplessness of being stranded by an event over which you have no control drives me nuts. Although I am not a control freak, I am naturally a problem solver. I go mad if a solution is beyond my means. Or if all I can do is try to be patient until the problem resolves itself.
One problem we seem to have the least amount of control over in this world is the weather. And that can make it scary. Who hasn’t sat in the dark, wind howling and rain pounding outside while the house creaks and groans around them? Who at those times hasn’t felt a twinge of terror? Impending doom? It’s worse when you can’t see what’s happening. When looking out the window into the storm reveals only a black void full of the wretched screams of insane nature.
On May 1, 2010 ,my Middle Tennessee homeland was devastated by what was at first labeled a100-year flood. Later that day, folks called it a 500-year flood. Still later, it becamea1,000-year flood. An estimated 21 people died from flooding caused by a training storm system that dumped bucket after bucket of heavy rain into swollen waterways. Nashville landmarks like the Grand Ole Opry were put out of business for a time thanks to flood damage. Most famously ,a steel temporary school building was recorded floating down Interstate 24 at Bell Road. Recovery from this disaster took years for many folks.
These days, extreme weather events seem to be daily events. I nearly wrote “normal” in that space, but there’s absolutely nothing “normal” about this weather. In the United States, extreme drought now precedes flooding similar to what Nashville and the rest of Middle Tennessee experienced in 2010. In Pakistan, an August severe flood has cost more than 1,000 lives as of this writing. The evening news and social media are rife with these stories regularly.
But back in 2010, Middle Tennessee residents were forced to launch social media campaigns directed at national news media to get them to pay attention to what was happening. Before that, cable news and other outlets were focused almost exclusively on the BP Deep Horizons oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was like no other information existed.
That lonely helplessness, those feelings of isolation and hopelessness provoked by natural disasters were what I relied upon entrap the citizens of the fictional town of Lost Hollow in their local general store on March 21, 1955. They think the weather is their primary antagonist. Meanwhile, an alluring stranger feeds on human guilt and shame among them. Not only are the neighbors trapped and made helpless by the storm, but they’re also trapped and made helpless against this other entity by their own perceived shortcomings.
The weather event in the novel is fictional. However, some of it was inspired by flooding accounts reported in the pages of The Tennessean newspaper’s March 22,1955 edition as well as a 1961 report on floods and flood control by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). A heavy storm coalesced west of the state on March 20,1955. It ended sometime in the early morning hours of March 22. While over the Midstate, the storm dumped rain from three to eleven inches over a 650-mile length and170-mile width of Tennessee. Flooding records were broken in several areas and nearly broken in others. In southern Middle Tennessee, only 1902 and 1948 rivaled the severity of the flood in the spring of 1955.
My research of the 1955 storm dovetailed with my 2010 experience, and the story from there took on a life of its own. At its heart, I think Hell Spring is a story about people and their hells, the darkness in them that others rarely see. The weather and the external antagonist force them to confront it.
What a rich and terrifying source of writing inspiration Isaac. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Congratulations too on Hell Spring. I think it sounds brilliant.