is a mythical horror novel by John Langan, which pays homage, in part, to Moby Dick
and the Bible. The main character, Abraham or Abe, as he prefers to be called, loses his wife early in the novel, struggling to remain balanced after the emotional toll that watching his wife die took on his well-being. After stabilizing himself, Abe befriends Dan, who has also experienced a tragedy, and together the two find solace in fishing. Soon, Dan asks Abe to take a fishing trip with him to Dutchman's Creek, a stream known for taking the lives of fishermen who visit. The lore of Dutchman's Creek, told by local blue-collar cook Howard, becomes a central focus of the novel, along with the struggles of all of the men to remain stable despite insurmountable grief.
The novel begins with the story of Abe, who in the first lines rejects the idea of himself as a patriarch or a leader of men, as it says in the Bible. It becomes clear that more responsibility, particularly responsibility for those he loves, is the last thing Abe wants. Abe married Marie, the love of his life, late in life. They went on their honeymoon, but shortly after returning home, Marie was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Abe cared for Marie through her treatments, watching as the woman he loved and had waited decades for wasted away. Watching Marie die was deeply traumatizing for Abe; not knowing how to cope, he took to drinking to drown the burden of his grief.
Abe's drinking rapidly becomes a problem. Though his boss is sympathetic to his struggle with Marie's death, Abe's drinking becomes so bad that he nearly loses his job. Finally, months after the funeral, Abe manages to pull himself together, primarily through fishing, which provides him time to meditate not only on Marie's death but also on their shared time together and the love they had for one another. Around this time, Abe meets Dan, a coworker who has recently experienced a tragedy of his own. Dan's wife and two young children recently died in a horrific car accident, which Dan survived. Struggling with survivor's guilt, Dan blames himself for the accident. Abe understands Dan's grief, and the two men soon form a friendship and a close bond.
Dan and Abe spend most of their time together fishing. They enjoy being in nature, talking in spurts about their shared experiences of grief, work, and their lives without their families. Though the two men spend much of their time together in silence, each finds the other's presence healing and reassuring. They travel around the Adirondacks and the Catskills, finding small streams and rivers to fish in, and spend hours staring at the water, taking comfort in each other and the silence.
After many weekends of fishing trips, Dan asks Abe about taking a trip to Dutchman's Creek. The creek is known for being dangerous to fishermen, though nobody is sure why – it has a reputation for taking the lives of fishermen who visit, despite an obvious lack of danger. Abe is hesitant, but Dan seems committed to the idea, and Abe wants to support his friend. The men drive out to the creek. Along the way, they stop for breakfast where they meet Howard, a cook who comes out of the kitchen to tell them the horrifying, mythic story of Dutchman's Creek, how it got its name, and how its reputation for being a place not entirely of this universe tore through the local community, nearly eviscerating everyone it touched.
Through three stories of grief, and through the voices of older, rural male protagonists, John Langan paints a mythic portrait of devastation in families, small communities, and the lives of survivors. The novel is foreboding and dark, with a frightening core that the men gravitate toward, without knowing what is in store.
John Langan, an American horror author, wrote Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters
, House of Windows
, The Fisherman
, and Thirty Years of Monster Stories
, among other books. He studied in upstate New York and is known for writing books that toe the line between literary and genre fiction, with a particular focus on horror and dark fantasy. He is an International Horror Guild Award finalist, a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and on the Board of Directors for the Shirley Jackson Award. In 2016, he won a Bram Stoker Award for The Fisherman.