Book Review │The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

If you are someone who enjoys horror novels that build on suspense and intrigue throughout before delivering a by your seat kind of ending, then The Only Good Indians is a summer read that you’re going to have to pick up. In a similar vein to Stephen King’s It, Jones plays on the idea that what you uncover years ago will eventually come to find you. There is no running from your past and what your past has created or in Lewis’s case, manifested by his younger self’s poor decision making to elk hunt in a place where they had no right to do so and, who along with his friends, took more than they would ever need. Their kills manifested something powerful that now, a decade later, is wanting its revenge.

We meet up with Lewis, a Blackfeet, who is now in his 30’s. He has lived off the reservation for sometime and works for the post office. He is happily married to Peta and has a solid life. One night, a light appears above the mantel in his home and so he climbs a tall ladder to see what is causing it. When he looks down, he sees the bloodied body of an elk that he has killed years ago and still holds its hide. Startled, he loses his footing and is sure that he is about to meet certain death on the brick beneath him when his wife intervenes and saves him. His friend Ricky, an accomplice to the illegal hunt years ago, is not so lucky, however. He has already met his end in the parking lot of a bar at the end of an elk’s antlers.

Thus, we are thrown into the world where Lewis and his remaining friends are fighting for their lives along an unseen force that is bent on revenge for their choices they made when they were young. These group of men are relentlessly chased by the monster they manifested when they killed the elks years ago. We shift from third person to first person as the she-elk-monster seeks her revenge on them and then back to third for the grand finale. There is much blood and gore and yes, if you are like me, the killing of the dog and the descriptive nature of the scene will leave you marred for days afterwards, but overall, this horror novel that mixes with Native American lore is a great pick for a late night read when you’re looking to stay up late and have your darkened living room feel like a creepy den of subtle horrors.

What I liked most about this novel is that it was not only a well-written horror piece, but it was also generally well-crafted and invited higher literary elements into the text such as the use of Native American lore, symbolism and several themes that helped to drive the tension of the novel including Lewis’s guilt over marrying a white woman, life outside of the reservation and the plays on sanity versus descent into madness.

“Death is too easy. Better to make every moment of the rest of a person’s life agony.”

About the Author

Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author with over 20 titles to his name. He holds degrees from Florida State University, University of North Texas and Texas Tech University. A native of Texas, Jones is currently the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder. For more information be sure to visit his website.

Book Information

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones was released on July 14, 2020 from Gallery Saga Press with ISBN 9781982136451. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Stephen King’s IT

As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I was pretty much like a lot of children of my generation– I grew up watching creepy dark comedies and shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? Which at the time, were super scary to me and to this day, I can not forget the Melissa Joan Hart episode with the ghost-boy that would randomly pop up and whisper “I’m cold” until he was reunited with his lost red hoodie. TV  and movies used to be a lot more than what they are today, for sure.

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Stephen King’s IT was another thing all together. I was either 11 or 12 when I was forced to watch it with my little brother who, though only 7 or 8 at the time, lived for shit like that. As for me, I was completely terrified by both Tim Curry and clowns and showers and drains and storm drains and….for YEARS following having watched it. I’m 30 years old now and to this day, I get the urge to fast-walk passed storm drains. It doesn’t help that there is one right by where I park when I get home…at night? I fly into my house. What? I’m a writer, I am forever cursed with a very real over-active imagination that believes in the possibility of all things. Including that Tim Curry in full-blown It makeup will be in the storm drain, offering me a red balloon so he can rip off my arm.

Imagine my shock when I was older and sat down and actually read the 1,000 page novel with just how much more detail was in the actual story. And as with anyone who has read the novel, the gang bang scene with them as kids was probably one of the more uncomfortable parts of a Stephen King book that I had to get through. Then, as a writer by that point in my life, it also got me to think. This was an extremely long book to begin with and to allow the gang bang scene involving adolescent kids into publication? Like, was this the book where they finally said to him, you’re off the leash just go with it because we know it will sell? It has to be.

 

It took me over two weeks to re-read it. The novel is a really great example for character development and using detail in writing. I had to keep taking breaks from it because at times it was almost too much. I also was very confused about what happened to Tom Rogan, Bev’s abusive husband who follows her to Derry after beating her up and her friend, only to kidnap Bill’s wife Audra to take her to It, only to seemingly disappear before the final battle. I had to pull up book spoilers to find out his fate. Has that happened to anyone else? I seriously felt like I blinked and missed an entire section, but when I went back, it wasn’t there. Oversight or is it just that quick?

I can’t wait until September when the new movie comes out even though, I feel like the new film has a lot to top from the Tim Curry 1990 version. It’s also hard to see Pennywise being portrayed as so obviously evil when in the novel, Pennywise was an illusion, a mask for it’s true form because it was how It was able to get the children it needed to feed. I think we all need to go into the new version thinking of it as an entirely different take all together.

What I can’t forgive though? The fact that this will be two parts and we’ll have to wait even longer to see the Losers reunite as adults.

What’s the freakiest part though? It comes back every 27 years to wreak havoc on Derry. 1990? Oh yeah, that was…wait for it…27 years ago.

Exquisite Corpse

It had been some years since I had read Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse. I spent any down time I had yesterday finishing it. It took me maybe 12 hours of on again off again reading to finish it. I forgot how engrossing the novel is.

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You know that it’s a really good read when it’s so shocking and well-written that it stays with you even after you’re done. It’s been a very long time since a book has left me feeling raw and anxious. I’ve read a lot over the years, and I think the last book that really did this to me was Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. Though I do have IT on my to-read list so I have a feeling that this list of books that chew you up and spit you out may grow in time. I just can’t get out of my head the ending of Exquisite Corpse, and the very true reality that that is probably occurring somewhere in the world right now, a seemingly perfect ideal for a mad man who feasts on human flesh. Ugh, the chills!

Can anyone recommend more horror novels that I have to check out? I’m taking a break today and started Sirens by Janet Fox even though that too takes you into the dark side of the gilded 1920’s and the world of jazz and gangsters.

If I could have picked when I could I have been born, it definitely would have been more towards the earlier 1900’s. Jazz-age Paris must have been a sight to behold.