As You Travel This Summer, Watch Out For Sleepy Little Towns In The Middle Of Nowhere. For The Reason Why, Read Matt Hayward’s Excellent Novel THE FAITHFUL

The Faithful-Hayward-cover shot

The Faithful
Matt Hayward
Sinister Grin Press
October 15, 2018
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Sinister Grin Press has done it again! The Faithful by Matt Hayward is a freaking mind blower with an ending that you won’t expect. Under promising and over delivering times ten! I knew this book was going to be good but as the story unfolded and picked up speed, good was left in the dust as GREAT took the lead. Damn, I’m excited just talking about it! But, enough with the flim-flam, let’s head for Elswich!

The Faithful starts in a mysterious way. A fella by the name of Jonesy is hanging out on the porch of a dilapidated rooming house playing guitar when some kids come along. They want a peek at this stranger that their parents are speaking ill of. But chuckles turn sour pretty quick when Jonesy informs one of the boys about a secret he knows. If not for the surprise arrival of a dude in a vintage Winnebago, the beginning of this novel could have been the end. But what the hell is he doing in weird little southern town well off the beaten path?

Vooop! Rewind tape to an earlier date and time. Famous comedian Leo Cartwright is wrapping up his thirty plus year career as a stand-up delivery service for jokes and funny stories with a final show in his hometown. After the night’s over he plans to hop in the big white Winnie and see the good old U.S. of A. It was something he was supposed to do with his wife, Margery, but cancer got her first. Leo is feeling a bit lost until a young man with cerebral palsy insists on talking to him after the show. Christopher Tate tells Leo wild tales about dreams that seem real in a place called No Man’s Land and that its resident, Jarrad Prescott, said they should get together. Not only that, but he says that Leo is a “truth seeker.” Hmm…

Leo is skeptical and very tired, so he kindly wishes the troubled young man well and heads home. But he can’t shake loose of Christopher Tate’s influence while he’s asleep and has a troubling dream that only gets worse when he’s woken by the hard news that Chris is dead. Not only that, but this person he barely knew left him a cryptic note consisting of the word Elswich and a picture of a scary looking creature. At first, he resists, but something tells him that this is more important than he thinks. Why not at least try to find some answers?

Morning finds him rolling down the road in the RV with some freshly printed directions to a town called Elswich even though he can’t find the place on any paper map. Weird. Not only that, but someone or something keeps leaving creepy notes on his vehicle when he isn’t looking. They refer to him as Funnyman and let him know that his trip is certainly not going unnoticed. Leo’s lived multiple decades and is a level-headed guy, but even he is getting unnerved. He hopes that once he gets to this Elswich, that all will be revealed, and he can return to his original plan of seeing the states through a windshield. Turns out that finding Elswich is just the beginning of a frightening journey. Especially when he picks up Jonesy and his kid, saving all three of them from a very unpleasant death.

But their reprieve from danger is a very short one in an action filled story that has them constantly fighting for their lives. See, Elswich ain’t no friendly little hick town trying to sell you eggs and goat cheese. No, it’s the home of The Faithful a very dangerous group of folks who follow the ancient god, Aypep of Otherworld. While they have worship services for their god in that nice church on the front cover, nothing holy is happening in there. We’re talking human sacrifice and hosting of the most awful creatures. We’re talking about a magic book of spells called the Necronomicon that enables its users to summon forces older than time. Leo, Jonesy, Caleb, and Kate might seem an unlikely team to stop The Faithful and their ancient god from fulfilling evil plans. But if they don’t, it might just mean the end of our world. Forever.

I’d like to keep on talking. But it’s going to be a lot better if you read Matt Hayward’s book. This thing is a killer and a thriller with more twists and turns than a motorcycle race track. FIVE STARS, BABY!!!  I enjoyed The Faithful immensely! Sinister Grin Press never disappoints. They put out high level books with cool cover art and solid editors such as Erin Al Me-Hairi. This my first time reading Matt Hayward’s work, but after The Faithful, I’m a fan! His writing comes across like a right hook to the jaw. There is mystery and suspense, but he never leads the reader so far afield that there is confusion or loss of the storyline. Bravo!

The balance employed in this novel between Lovecraft story elements and Hayward’s writing is perfect. Nice dashes of reference, but not overly so and I think that’s just as it should be. Those worlds exist and we are all part of the legend, but allowing Hayward’s characters to shine makes The Faithful a very special book that harnesses the power of storytelling. Unlikely heroes are often the best kind and it’s what you can’t see that’ll git ya! I highly encourage you to grab a copy of The Faithful today, so that you can also enjoy the magic woven by Matt Hayward! Check out all that Sinister Grin Press has to offer at www.sinistergrinpress.com and Matt Hayward at www.sundancecrow.com Oh, and one last thing…Watch out for those quiet little towns in the middle of nowhere!

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