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Book Review: In the Graveyard Antemortem – Author Stephen Stromp

In the Graveyard Antemortem - Author Stephen StrompIn The Graveyard Antemortem
By: Stephen Stromp
Kindle Press
340 Pages

Lisa Jacobs has endured far more than any girl should have to go through at the age of seventeen. Coming home one day she finds her father has been slain in the grisliest of fashion. On top of coping with such a dreadful tragedy she learns she’s been forced into a guardianship with her estranged uncle Clayton. Knowing very little about her uncle she’s beside herself to realize he’s the proprietor of the largest most successful funeral conglomeration in Grand Hallow. Something is horrifically amiss about Clayton and his choice of vocation. With things that go bump in the night, twin sisters that call the grounds their virtual playground and a sinister stranger that lurks in the shadows, Lisa begins to question her very sanity not to mention if something much more diabolical is at play. Will she learn the secrets that seem to be around every turn, twist and corner, making sense of her troubled past or will she forever succumb to the unearthly prowess in In The Graveyard Antemortem?

I’ve always held a very high regard for self-published endeavors in today’s literary realm. It takes a very tenacious, determined individual to showcase their heart and soul by their own rules and brand. Certainly void of any censorship or interference from editors and publishers the resilient self-publisher suddenly must adapt the role of not only author but of course editor, publisher, marketer, etc. etc. I admire what this author Stephen Stromp has created and I trust each of the reading audience will get an appreciation of just what kind of efforts it took to develop this novel into circulation.

That being said I do feel there are a couple of elements that offer distraction or somewhat taint the overall integrity of the product as opposed to the obvious intention of attempting to offer accentuating elements to present an effective presentation. In the Graveyard opens with some photos that albeit I’m sure hold some personal sentiment to the author. While I’m sure their very presence was intended to offer further allure into the plot I cannot deny that the execution of such comes across as a little distracting and one cannot help but question their relevance. I’ve always felt that illustrations are a delicate decision in the publishing process and each should provide further mystique and innuendo, enticing the imagination further. The addition of these snaps comes across as a little bit on the amateurish side and cannot help but wonder if the overall product would be more effective without.

The very premise of this novel is highly imaginative and innovative. A morbid setting is enough to satiate the intrigue of horror fans without having to depend upon a specific genre demographic. Stromp has an uncanny ability to build upon plot escalation with subtle clues and hints that something much more foreboding lies ahead.

Told from a first person point of view in the eyes of Lisa Jacobs enables the reader to empathize with her character on a much more readily basis. We learn a great deal about what makes her tick and almost on a subconscious level find ourselves delving deeper into the foray and cheering her on as the plot thickens. We wish to see her overcome all adversity as gruesome as each element is presented.

At times the first person persona becomes a little bit murky. The showing not telling technique is somewhat compromised as the author takes delicate deliberation in highlighting the action with body language, dialogue and reactions. It becomes a little frustrating when the reader is given the proverbial green light to fill in the blanks of what’s taken place and all within the same heart beat we’re bludgeoned in our subconscious provided the obvious subtext of what is taking place. It’s an all too familiar trap many budding authors slip into while attempting to get their point across. Yet Stromp’s delivery would have much greater impact if he allowed a certain unspoken trust in his readers’ imagination, allowing each to fill in the blanks on their own.

The dialogue is simplistic and reigns true for typical teenagers and secondary characters. We question not the authenticity of how these individuals communicate and interact. As a result the plausibility factors are accentuated and we find ourselves investing deeper into the story.

There seems to be an increasing trend in horror nostalgia in recent times whether through literary, film or other media. In The Graveyard Antemortem takes place in 1985. The very time period and setting will attract a vast reading audience. I would caution the author however to be more selective in his references from such time frame. A great deal of readers simply won’t remember The Scarecrow and Mrs. King. It’s evident the program had resonated with the author but it’d be an awful shame to alienate a specific reading demographic for an obscure reference that will compound additional distraction.

Overall In The Graveyard Antemortem was a most worthy endeavor. The author’s strong suits are creating an original plot with captivating plot escalation and believable characters. I look forward to reading additional endeavors to witness a flourishing prose that I’m sure will become infectious to countless.

In The Graveyard Antemortem is available at Journalstone Books

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