Nocturnal Offerings: Novel review and Interview with author Alan Draven by J.C. Walsh
Nocturnal Offerings, the third book by Dark Fiction writer Alan Draven is a treat for fans of the horror genre. In Part 1: The Midnight Queen, the novel grabs the reader’s attention immediately with a very intense prologue. A young woman is chased through the woods by some kind of creature, and in moment is killed in a very gory and gruesome way. From there, in the first chapter we follow Nick Kubrick, a Radio DJ whom also a myth buster in the Foggy city of Bitternest, Louisiana, shares his adventures with his listeners on his show. Taking a road trip to Montreal Canada, Nick plans to make a surprise visit to his brother, but to his dismay finds that not only his brother isn’t home, but it looks like he hasn’t been home for months. His mail box is overflowing, his lawn is unkempt and knee high. So while he sets out in search of his brother he runs into an old high school friend name Lance. Lance offers to help Nick find his brother, but also lets him stay at his place with he and his wife Nicole in Elysium Cove.
Once arriving at Elysium Cove, Nick finds it to be the perfect place, too perfect. From the house, to the lawns, to the amount of space the community has, to the fact the females and males all have perfect bodies and look like models, so perfect that it’s a little creepy. Some strange things like the curfew, and that not one home has any kids. Not only that but one of the neighbors, Christina starts flirting with Nick he finds out her husband is missing. Once staying there Nick begins having strange dreams that seem too real. This brought him to believe that something definitely strange is going on, along with the string of murders that are happening, Nick begins to believe that his brothers disappearance, and the murders are all connected with the residents of Elysium Cove. With the help of a very attractive librarian named Monica, a Satanist named Herbert West (yes I geeked out from the Lovecraft reference!), Nick dives into his myth busting skills like he was home in Bitternest. After the dangerous events that occurred in Montreal come to an end, Part 2 of the book begins and has Nick chasing the supernatural once again when a private investigator named Jim Coffin needs his help. Apparently there are some strange string of murders that are happening. Nick and Jim not only find out the murders lead to a carnival in Bitternest that occupies a space that used to belong to a cemetery, but the gruesome killings bare a strange coincidences related to the killings in Montreal.
From the start Alan Draven already has the reader drawn with the Prologue. The really intense and gory opening sets the bar for the novel, and as the reader continues the read on and follow Nick on this dark adventure, they too will want to find out the mysteries that are behind everything, and the reader will be hooked as I was as things begin to unfold. Now I already started off this review saying Alan Draven has delivered Horror readers a treat and I wasn’t kidding. Not only is Nocturnal Offerings a fresh read in the Horror genre, but Alan’s writing is fast paced, and he keeps the story going to hold interest of the reader. A couple of my favorite scenes are with Nick at the cookout in Elysium Cove, and when Nick is having Dinner with Nicole and another female from the neighborhood. (I also mentioned these in the interview with Alan Draven in the below.) What I loved about these two scenes was how the suspense and the tension was built upon mainly whatever Nick was thinking or feeling, and follows along with the dialogue. The only way I can fully describe how I felt about these two scenes and how they had me on edge was not only the feeling of dread and the situation that our hero is suddenly put into, but it’s like watching a Quentin Tarantino movie, where there’s twenty minutes of dialogue and then boom the shit hits the fan. In the writing form it’s not the exact same formula, but similar in a way where the reader does not expect what is to happen next. The characters are well written and you care a great deal about them to not want anything bad to happen to them. Nick Kubrick is a great character, he’s a smart ass, cocky and always makes references to horror movies, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud whenever a reference was made that being a horror fan I was familiar with. Other references made are people’s names (Nick’s last name is after the great Stanley Kubrick, obviously!)
Once the events in Montreal end, it will leave readers with a ‘that’s it?” kind of feeling. Which leads into Part 2 of Nocturnal offerings, Postmortem Adventures. I personally would have liked this part of the book to be a little bit longer, having said that, it’s still one of my favorite sections of the novel. Alan Draven does not cheat the reader in this part of the novel with his unique style of storytelling. Part 2 brings us back to Nick’s home town, Bitternest, and much like Stephen King’s world of The Dark Tower, is now one of my favorite places in Alan Draven’s world I enjoy visiting. In this part of the novel, Alan Draven continues to pull the reader into a crazy world of characters, showing us that he will find a way to open some new doors in familiar territory such as Bitternest. In the carnival we meet some new and interesting characters as Nick and Jim continue their investigation into the murders. What they find is a cunning creature and very little time to stop it in its bloody trail. Nocturnal Offerings hits a home run when everything in the story leads to this and ties everything in a gut wrenching ending, one that grabs for the throat and will leave you speechless.
Nocturnal Offerings is a fresh take at horror fiction. It’s gory, suspenseful, full of great characters, and a well written story. The readers will want more Bitternest, and hopefully we will see other adventures of Nick Kubrick, and some of the other great characters featured in Nocturnal Offerings. Read the interview below with Mr. Draven to find out if we will see Nick and Bitternest again, and what else this talented writer has in store.
- Similar to writers such as Stephen King or Brian Keene, whom sometimes intertwine their novels with a familiar universe from their other works, it seems that Bitternest is your universe in a way. Tell us the process in creating this dark and enchanting place and will we see it more in future writings?
A. I first came up with the idea of Bitternest back in the summer of the year 2000. I was attempting to write my first novel at the time and I wanted it to be set somewhere fictitious so I’d have more freedom with locations and such. So I conjured up this place in Louisiana where unnatural events occur on a daily basis because I’d been to New Orleans three years earlier by myself for a week when I’d turned 21 and had been mesmerized by it and I thought it’d be a good setting for my dark tales. So I decided Bitternest would be a smorgasbord of three cities: New Orleans, Montreal (my hometown here in Canada) and foggy London, England to create a unique backdrop for my stories. Apart from one novel and one novella, all my stories/novellas/novels thus far have taken place in Bitternest. From one story to the next, you’ll find recurring locations, events, and characters. It will continue to be featured prominently in my future books whenever I will write in the dark suspense/thriller/horror genres. It is an ongoing mythology of sorts.
- There were a lot of great horror references in Nocturnal Offerings, from the names of the characters, items being used and so on. Were these definite inspirations or heat of the moment while working on the story?
A. It goes hand in hand with the Nick Kubrick character; he loves using pop culture references when he speaks. He’s like a walking encyclopedia of useless things and pop culture in general (much like I am, to be honest). It was also a way for me of paying homage to a lot of movies/books/things in the horror genre that have inspired me as a writer over the years.
- There are certain scenes in Nocturnal Offerings that seem to build suspense and create tension by using dialogue, like when Nick meets everyone at the cook out in Elysium Cove and also when Nick is having dinner with Nicole and one of her neighbors, tell us the process of these two well written scenes.
A. Most of my stories/books are dialogue-driven. I’ve been told many times that my books are very cinematic and almost feel like movies. It’s just my writing style, I guess. I love fast-paced stories and I find that a story that unfolds through the eyes and mouth of the characters as opposed to long paragraphs of third person narrative is much more engaging. There’s also the fact that I’m a lifelong movie buff and spent thirteen of my childhood and adolescent years reading and collecting comic books so that dialogue-oriented style stems directly from those two other mediums.
- Has the main character Nick Kubrick made any other appearances other than Nocturnal Offerings and will he return in the future?
A. Yes; like many other characters from Bitternest, some of them first start out as supporting characters and move on to become protagonists in their own novels. Nick Kubrick first appeared in a short story titled “The Chilling Hour” and this is where we witness his first supernatural myth-debunking adventure. The story can be found in my short story/novella collection The Bitternest Chronicles. He’s had many adventures since but I hadn’t written any of them. I thought it’d be fun to give him his own novel where he goes on vacation to get away from it all and finds that he can’t escape the supernatural wherever he goes. He will be back for sure in the future; I have no plans yet for another book with him but he’s one of my favorite characters that I’ve created so he will definitely be back. On the other hand, Jim Coffin, the private eye who shows up in the second part of the book will return very soon. I featured him in a novella titled “The Paradigm” in my other short story/novella collection, Spooky Showcase, and he will be given his very own “supernatural mysteries” book series soon.
- Tell us about your next novel.
A. I’m taking a long, long break from writing horror to focus on more mainstream books, specifically in the Sci-Fi and Urban Fantasy genres. I’ve just finished writing the first draft of the first of a seven book Sci-Fi/Fantasy series based on the fabled continent of Atlantis. Next up, after I’m done the second draft of that book, I’ll be starting a Sci-Fi thriller, a kind of a man-on-the-run type of novel set in the near future. Then I’ll go back to a Sci-Fi novel that I started writing nearly four years ago which I had put on hold. It’s my homage to the stories of Philip K. Dick (author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the basis for the movie “Blade Runner”, and also “Minority Report” and “Total Recall”, among many others). It will deal with memories and with a protagonist being thrown in an environment where not everything is what it seems. In the near future, I also have plans for the above-mentioned Jim Coffin supernatural mysteries which will be set in Bitternest. And there’s also a Crime/Urban Fantasy series I’ve been itching to start writing for a few years now that will deal with a crime family of rich werewolf industrialists setting up in Bitternest. Think of this series as the Godfather meets Wolf Man. And there will be the ongoing Atlantis series which I’ll work on every year or so.
- Anything you would like to add about your experiences as a writer?
A. Writing is what keeps me sane. It’s the most wonderful way I have found to express myself. I have all these stories swimming inside my head that are itching to be told, gnawing at me, and they won’t go away until I put them on paper. It’s a privilege to be read and to receive feedback from my ever-growing fanbase of readers. I am hoping I will soon be able to do it full-time.
Thank you Alan for taking the time with us!
Find out more about Alan Draven: