I received my hardcover edition of The Troop as a welcoming gift upon arriving at the 2014 World Horror’s Convention in Portland, Oregon. This was my first time attending the convention, and I had come, in part, to pitch my first novel length work of fiction (which has since been picked up!). To me, the World Horror Convention seemed to be a celebration of the small press – the tribe (troop) of men and women just brave, or twisted, enough to champion tales of horror.
The Troop was clearly a mass market offering. Money had been put into its slick production. It carried the praise of industry A-listers. Oh how I hated it right from the start.
In fact, I wasn’t going to read the book. I wasn’t even going to take it home with me. Let that piece of pomposity collect dust in the dark hollow of the hotel desk drawer. Have it taste obscurity with the rest of us horror scribes.
Fortunately, I didn’t. I had it shipped home along with the fourteen other books I bought that wallet-draining weekend. And while The Troop was traveling cross country in the back of some dawdling postal truck, something fortuitous happened. I heard the author interviewed on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast (Which, if you haven’t listened to yet, you must, immediately. Joe Rogan’s venerable podcast will not only make you laugh, it just might change your life. For real.) Anyhow, I liked what I heard. And, so, I gave the book a try.
The Troop is written by Nick Cutter, a pseudonym for acclaimed Canadian-born author, Craig Davidson. Now, if I have any complaints at all, it’s with the pseudonym. Nick Cutter? Why not just go all the way and call yourself, Nick Dagger, or Jagged Knife, or Chainsaw Bloodsplatter? I’m kidding. It’s fine.
What’s important is the book, the story. One that will hit the sweet spot for any fan of old school horror. Mr. Cutter pays homage to his, and most everyone’s, idol, Stephen King, in the back of the book. And for good reason. The story is reminiscent of the master’s earlier work. But in a good way. No, in a great way. From the very beginning this author, whom I wanted to hate, established a sense of control with tight, economical prose, and compelling imagery that casts the mysterious spell of all great stories and sucks you right into its imaginary world.
There is no languid set up here. No excessive character introduction. Mr. Cutter gets right to business on page one, grabbing you by the scruff of the neck and shoving your face into a maelstrom of pain, suffering, and fear. Resistance is futile. The best you can do is close your eyes, but even then you are apt to hear the wet, slithering sounds of the creatures inside and gag on their cloying stench.
While The Troop follows a group of adolescents trying to earn their merit badges, this is not a coming of age story. This is a story of survival. It is a study into the madness of nature and men. And it’s not for the squeamish, or the feint of heart. Mr. Cutter does not shy from showing gore. But, in my opinion, his more explicit scenes are handled with measured taste and fit within the context of the story. Trust me, I’m no splatterpunk fan, and I wasn’t turned off.
If you want a plot overview, check out the back cover. All I have to say is that it’s worth the read. Old school extreme horror written for the masses. Maybe Mr. Cutter is paving the new way.
Now go get yourself a copy, HERE.