The Dying Embers of an Alter Place by Marshall Parrent
Book Description (from Amazon)
All at once tragic, heartbreaking, horrifying and moving, The Dying Embers of an Altar-place tells the story of Bernice Whittenfield, a dim-witted restaurant owner. Led by her elderly father, Denny, they contribute to a sinister yet lucrative criminal enterprise from their remote hills in ruralEast Tennessee. When her father reunites with his once lost and only son, he commences to treat Bernice like an outcast. And then, without the governance of her father, Bernice will set them all on a path to inhuman violence and suffering born from hell itself.
I was asked to review this book by the writer and was very pleasantly impressed by the quality of the writing and the strange mix of characters in this book. This plot is not for the fainthearted as there are dark and brooding evil deeds both imagined and actually carried out, mostly by Bernice. Her father Denny is very controlling and is involved in horrible criminal acts.
The first shocking violence, which is not just part of bernice’s fantasy, is against Byron, a friend of Bernice’s step-brother, and this seems to set the pace of the book. Bernice’s long dead mother’s voice is still playing in her head at times and influences the action with fanatic religious threats of hell and damnation for almost everyone they know. The issues of sexuality are subtle and cleverly developed throughout the book.
Bernice lives in her head a lot, but is limited, by her low intelectual ability, in being able reason things out. In chapter seven, when thinking of her workers in the restaurant;
‘She fantasised about bashing some of their heads in with a hammer throughout the day.. She saw a great pile of their bodies out back and she was hurling them into the dumpster,’ seriously weird stuff. I do not want to spoil this story for anyone, suffice to say there are some shocking murders and very tense moments.
As well as the horror in this work, the writer also has an artistic way with words, e.g using words like ‘trepidatiously’ to conjure the mood, and saying of Bernice’s thought process, ‘After several days of hosting a brain devoid of any critical thought and sometimes even rudimentary thought, she had an idea.’
There are some lighter moments from the dark thoughts and deeds, kidnaps and murder, when one time Bernice’s mother is giving her advice she rants seriously about her not doubting the Lord, and also adds ‘but yer weak and dumb as shit.’
The characters are very well detailed and the story is disturbing and tense and complicated enough to keep you reading well after midnight. I would recommend this book as a very original read.
Interview with Marshall Parrent author of The Dying Embers of an Alter Place
Q. When did you start writing and what made you start?
A. I have been writing since I can remember, since I was a boy. I’ve always read and I’ve always felt that I had something to write. When I think about it, I honestly cannot pin down when exactly I started writing or what made me start. No one from my childhood instilled that interest in me, that desire, that love. It was just there. In many ways, I was discouraged, actually. But I could not deny what felt like my core being, no matter what anyone said to convince me that there were ‘better’ paths.
I started at East Tennessee State University as an English major. I remember the VA rep (Veteran’s Affairs) laughed when I put that down on my forms as I applied to the G.I. Bill. He saw that I had been an NBC Specialist (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) while in the Army, and suggested that I pick another course of study. With my background, I would service myself better by going into a different field. I know that the man..