Nebraska city, 1901.
There’s a curse on Arbor Lodge—an elusive demon reclaiming the illustrious home in the name of the prairie—and its owner, J. Sterling Morton, proud statesman, is desperate.
It couldn’t be more fortuitous for lumberjack Neville, whose greatest desire is to prove himself a true man to the world. Morton offers respect, security, pride, even the father figure Neville never had; and all the lumberjack has to do is find and kill this creature.
There’s no doubt in Neville’s mind that he deserves to rise to the status of legend. He will prevail. It’s in his blood.
Or else, his blood will be in the prairie.
Lumberjack is a historical horror novella, set in the 1900s Nebraska, written by Anthony Engebretson and published by Tenebrous Press. A novella built around how a man need for validation and desire to be more end provoking the cracks that will be used by his sanity to escape.
After being freed from prison, Neville is hired by J. Sterling Morton to get rid of the demon that is cursing Arbor Lodge; a job that can bring Neville what he more desires, respect and validation, the chance to prove himself as something more than what all the people think about.
But if there's something that becomes soon clear, is that Neville's mind is in a complicated state; those desires are the fuel that will end burning himself inside. As a main character, the lumberjack Neville is totally unlikeable, as you can soon see his obsessive tendencies, and how he's not exactly in a good state of mind.
Engebretson magnificently plays with the line between reality and insanity, using in great ways the resource of unreliable narrators; as reader, you can't distinguish between if something is real or just a byproduct of Neville's mind. The plot advances in a slippery slope kind, leading us to a finale that we could have anticipated, but not for that is less impactful.
The setting is another of the selling points of this novella, as the historical accuracy helps you immerse more into the story; despite the reduced length, many details are introduced and help us to get a bigger picture of the place.
Lumberjack is an excellent novella to put a final point to the Tenebrous Press' 2023 publications; if you like historical inspired horror, this is a great pick for you.
Anthony is a speculative fiction writer and Library Science grad student from Nebraska and currently living in Michigan. He has been published in several anthologies, edited one, and his debut novella Sair Back, Sair Banes was released in May 2022. He loves writing dark fiction with a speculative bent dealing with issues ranging from personal, mental health issues to systemic and structural horrors. He loves raccoons. His twitter handle is @AnthonyJEngebr1.