Book Review: The Croaker by Scott Nicolay

“Scott Nicolay’s The Croaker is another stunning reason why he is quickly becoming one of the strongest new voices in Weird and Cosmic Horror.”

The_20Croaker_20Art_20small_originalHaunted by painful memories, Michael meets with his first crush nearly thirty years after strange events changed him forever. Something happened when he and Donna visited the Tommy Croaker Memorial Park so long ago, and now Michael’s come home, seeking answers, closure, maybe even a chance with his never-forgotten friend, now an adult, and still as mysterious as ever.

Scott Nicolay’s The Croaker is another stunning reason why he is quickly becoming one of the strongest new voices in Weird and Cosmic Horror. Though technically considered a short-story, this tale packs a serious punch, with visceral descriptions and lingering imagery readers will not be able to shake. Do not let this story’s brevity fool you; this is definitely one for any horror fan, especially those who like their fiction clever and haunted.

The beauty of Nicolay’s writing is his ability to create characters we can all relate to very quickly, without the usual spoon-feeding we find so often in contemporary fiction. Careful use of just enough backstory allows the reader to get on the level with Michael, as many readers have witnessed their parents’ divorces, a painful reality of human existence. And we’ve all felt those first pangs of lust when we were teenagers, finding our classmates sometimes more attractive in ways beyond platonic camaraderie. Michael has apparently never forgotten about Donna, his first crush, and contacts her through social media. They decide to meet and catch up on old times when Michael returns home for his father’s funeral. Their conversation turns to the time they trekked to the Tommy Croaker Memorial Park, where they attempted to conjure the legendary Croaker. When Donna suggests they return to the park, Michael is overcome with his memories, including those that may have been repressed.

Our questioning of memory is a compelling subject for such a short tale. How much of our memories can we trust to be reliable? When do these memories force us to face a truth that could be equally unreliable? Is this our personal moment of horror, a horror from which we can never return? These are hard-hitting questions, and Nicolay does not provide us with any answers, and these questions are the very thing that makes each of us unique. The answers are personal, and usually, we just don’t want to know.

Weird Fiction is often defined as a subgenre of speculative fiction that predates modern genre classifications. It holds the ghost story, as well as other strange tales of the macabre, very close to the chest, while maintaining an aesthetic of dread and the intimate knowledge that nature, whether Earthly or otherworldly, is cold and indifferent to mankind. The Croaker is most certainly a tale with ghostly trappings, written for the modern mind, at once realizing our memories can haunt us through time and space, bending our reality, allowing us to slip into a dizzying madness we can never escape. The story’s power comes after you read the last page, perhaps dazed by the events that just unfolded, prompting you to go back to the beginning to read it again. For some, the effect takes a little longer to sink in, but once it does, you will find yourself returning to the story, searching for the little clues that only ask more questions, refusing answers.

The Croaker will be released in a limited run through Sidecar Preservation Society in April, 2016. Readers can pre-order now, in hardcover and chapbook versions, both editions limited to a combined 170 copies.


Publisher: Sidecar Preservation Society
Paperback (34pp)
Release Date: April 2016

Pre-order The Croaker

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1 comment

  1. Very good review Bob.

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