I hadn't heard of Gregory Bastianelli until recently when a friend brought up a Halloween novel the author has coming this Fall. I'm still a sucker for October fiction.

Bastianelli publishes with Flame Tree. They are a unique outlet. Not big enough to truly be called one of the majors, but miles ahead of most independent publishers.

Flame Tree has a stable of writers, but other than Campbell and Janz I haven't read a lot of them. Libraries don't often carry the titles and I am gun-shy about spending money on untested authors.

I was able to borrow Bastianelli's Snowball and a gave it a shot.

I'm pleased to report that Snowball wasn't a waste of my precious reading time.

The first half of the novel reads like a classic eighties paperback original. A snowplow is stuck in a vicious blizzard and something mysterious and horrifying befalls the driver. A number of vehicles are stranded behind the plow. They gather together in an RV to get through the night, but it becomes increasingly evident that more is going on than Mother Nature's snowy hostility.

The group all have terrible memories of traumatic events in their pasts. All of which occurred in Wintry conditions. Ominous dread builds to a fever pitch, and two of the stranded men head out to find help. Basdtianelli handles all this well.

The second half of Snowball goes into surreal T.M. Wright territory. The book slows down a little but not enough to truly hurt it.

Bastianelli succeeds best with his clear writing, well-drawn characters, suspense, and a fine sense of place and atmosphere. The driver character failed, but Bastianelli pulled his literary plow through the chilly barrens of his scary story and kept my interest.

Gregory Bastianelli isn't a writer to watch; he's a writer to read. I liked this book and I will certainly read October, which appropriately comes out on October 8, 2024.

Written by Mark Sieber

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