It seems to me that in all too many cases, editor and publishers who also write fiction sometimes get a bad break. Cemetery Dance honcho Richard Chizmar has penned numerous short stories that are excellent, and comparatively few seem to have read them. David B. Silva is still best known for editing The Horror Show and co-creating Hellnotes, and he is one of the genre best writers. Gauntlet's Barry Hoffman has written a lot of thoughtful suspense fiction. The list goes on and Stephen Mark Rainey is on it.
Mark Rainey edited the excellent horror magazine, Deathrealm: The Land Where Horror Dwells. He did so for quite a few years and reading tons of stories obviously helped teach him a lot about how to construct a piece of fiction. I've never read a story or novel by Mark Rainey that wasn't professional, competent and enjoyable. The Nightmare Frontier is no exception.
The novel begins with a frightening Prologue that takes place in 1967, in Vietnam. An unusual heirloom is discovered in by a group of American soldiers, and it is taken from a shrine. That triggers a gruesome slaughter. After that we are introduced to a man returning to his West Virginia hometown to see his sister. The man's nephew was brutally killed in a mysterious way. Local officials cannot determine whether it was a murder, some horrible accident or maybe an animal attack. Before long, he gets entwined with an attractive neighbor, a dangerous family of reclusive rednecks and something worse. Much worse.
Rainey takes his time with the novel's first quarter, giving us hints of the terrors to come, but he also wisely allows his readers to get to know the principle characters and their personalities. He knows that it is impossible to care about the fate of the people in any story if we don't know them before the real carnage begins.
One thing I loved about The Nightmare Frontier is the rural town setting. Much of the horror that I began to read in the early 80's took place in similar surroundings and I find it to be oddly comforting. An interesting notion: Horror fiction as comfort food. There seems to be something inherently frightening, yet reassuring about a small town setting and I love reading stories set in small towns.
As the story progresses, our protagonist gradually learns that there is a lot more going amis than any simple redneck crackers could be responsible for. Even while he realizes that they are deeply involved in the bizarre things that he experiences. All Hell breaks loose when the town is literally segregated from the surrounding communities by an alien-like barrier and malignant forces begin making themselves known.
Those that love the type of cosmic horror will love The Nightmare Frontier. But I don't think its appeal will be limited to that particular type of reader. Any serious or even casual reader of horror fiction will be rewarded by reading The Nightmare Frontier. The price tag for the Sarob Press edition is fairly steep, but I assume that the quality of the book will be worth it. I've never seen any of their publications myself.
Copies of The Nightmare Frontier can be preordered from Shockines and if a customer so desires, a custom remarque from artist Chad Savage can be gotten for free.