Ghost Road Blues

Jonathan Maberry
Ghost Road Blues Cover

Ghost Road Blues


Every horror writer in the last 25 years more or less has been compared to Stephen King. He is the bench mark that publishers and reviewers like to use as a reference, and it has become so overused as to border on the point of being ludicrous. So I hate to do it myself but in the case of Jonathan Maberry and the first novel in his "Pine Deep Trilogy", Ghost Road Blues I believe a valid argument can be made that he is the spirit child of Mr. King.

It is not that his writing style is so very similar, but reading the themes of this novel brought me back to Kings early writing, when he was hungry and his stories hinted at the terrible daemons the man was struggling with. Now I don't want to belittle Mr. Mayberry's writing because I am in no way accusing him of being some little "King Clone" as many writes are. His story of evil arriving at the town of Pine Deep is interesting and original; it's just that while reading I saw hints of King's influence on the man.

I read in an article by Larry Atkins on-line on Philadelphia Weekly (, that Mr. Maberry does not necessarily like the comparisons. He said people compare his work because,

" first three novels were supernatural vampire stories set in small town America. So was [Stephen Kings] Salem's Lot"

Well I hate to disappoint Mr. Maberry, but the novels that came to my mind after reading Ghost Road Blues were two other equally iconic King novels The Shining and The Stand. I must confess that until I read that interview, I had no idea I had even read a vampire novel. I'm guessing there will be more blood sucking in the future novels in the series.

Mr. Mayberry's thematic use of the idea that evil done in a location can leave residue of that evil to linger and that if enough evil has been done a place it will become evil, is a theme Mr. King has used in several novels; specifically in The Shining and in his sequel Doctor Sleep with Danny's ability to see the suicide in the tub and the child's death at the Overlook play house. This theme was used again in Pet Sematary where the ground at the old Micmac burial ground was said to be "sour." In that same vein, the idea that evil never dies, it just waits and grows stronger, is pretty much the basis of all Mr. Kings novels, specifically the character of "Randall Flagg" found in The Stand, The entire "Dark Towers" series, and In The Eyes of The Dragon. Now Stephen King does not have a copyright on these themes but he does them so well. And so does Mr. Maberry. Ghost Road Blues uses these themes to great effect, and builds the tension up throughout the novel by introducing character upon character that will be of great importance for good or evil in later novels.

And this would be my only negative about Ghost Road Blues. It did not feel like a stand-alone novel to me, but instead part one of a larger work. We are introduced to many characters whose value is not yet known. This unknown quantity is both a blessing and a curse. The reader knows they are important, but it is not always clear on the characters motivation, are they good or evil? This is not true with all the characters, but I'm thinking specifically of two characters, The Mayor, Terry Wolfe, and "Iron" Mike Sweeney. Because of this ambiguity, these two characters hold the most interest to me. Especially the mayor, who seems to be a man on the edge of snapping. When he does, will the shattered pieces fall to the light or the dark? I must admit I am anxious to find out.

Jonathan Maberry has a deft hand when it comes to the violence in the novel. And there is violence throughout this work; Violence so brutally written as to make a reader question whether it is wise to finish reading. I don't know about everyone else but I am a visual reader. I see what I am reading in my mind, like my own personal movie. (I know I am not the only one, right Thom), and although the violence is intense, especially the scene where Mike Sweeney gets beaten, I never felt like I was reading "slasher porn," violence just for violence sake.

In the end whether he likes it or not, Jonathan Maberry reminds me of "Young" Stephen King. That being said for better or worse, His writing was excellent and I very much enjoyed reading Ghost Road Blues.