Written by Scott Nicholson
Published by: CreateSpace
Publication Date: 2010
Format: Black /White – 360 pages
Drummer Boy, by Scott Nicholson, is a supernatural novel set deep in the North Carolina Mountains. The town of Titusville readies for the annual reenactment of the area’s most famous Civil War battle; Stoneman’s Raid. During the actual battle, years before, a rag tag band of deserters from both the North and the South (Kirk’s Raiders) hid in the dark forbidding cave known forever after as The Jangling Hole. After the battle an angry Union officer ordered the Hole destroyed, they blasted into the cave causing a collapse that trapped Kirk and his Raiders deep in the belly of the mountain. As the yearly reenactment nears mischievous boys and greedy developers stir the spirits sleeping in the cavernous gloom.
Dex, Bobby, and Vernon Ray (the three aforementioned mischievous boys) spend a lazy afternoon outside The Hole, talking about the legends surrounding it and, as boys often do, throwing rocks at it. Two police officers arrive and the story takes off and doesn’t look back. The first scene sets the pace and feel of the rest of the story with realistic well-drawn characters, a fine eye for the surrounding beauty, and an eerie feeling that keeps you turning the pages.
As the story develops we explore the Jangling Hole’s home, Mulatto Mountain, and the town of Titusville. Mr. Nicholson introduces a strong cast of characters quick but takes his time to develop them into realistic people that you can relate to. The boys’ fathers are all three very different and each has a different dynamic with his son creating the first of many layers in the story. The aforementioned greedy developer made his money with nature photography yet now seeks to destroy the same beauty to build track houses.
The town sheriff, Sheriff Littlefield, is a returning character from Mr. Nicholson’s novel The Red Church. He is haunted by the events that transpired in The Red Church and as all hell creeps out and threatens to break loose he struggles to figure out the terrible puzzle that is the Jangling Hole. Hardy Eggers is a hard working man whose son, Donnie, is left in a mentally diminished state after a visit into the Jangling Hole. Personal relationships crackle and fizz as Kirk’s Raiders grow restless in the Jangling Hole and begin to make ominous appearances all over Titusville and Mulatto Mountain.
The ghosts themselves are creepy and every bit as well drawn as their living counterparts.
Detailed descriptions are a specialty of Mr. Nicholson and as the ghosts of the Jangling Hole glide through the forest, over the train tracks, and into battle formations you see them in their ragged dead glory; kepis askew and muskets blazing. Even in death the soldiers follow the crazed Colonel Kirk as they journey out of the Hole. Vernon Ray’s dad is the captain that leads the Titusville troops every year and, as a serious collector and student of all things Civil War, he takes it almost as serious as the battle hungry Kirk’s Raiders. The build is a slow burn with twists and history sprinkled in equal measure. By the time the reenactment is beginning and the ghost platoon are venturing towards battle Mr. Nicholson has wrapped you tight in the layers of this wonderfully eerie story.
I’m walking away from this book impressed with Scott Nicholson. From the great characterization of Sheriff Littlefield I want to check out The Red Church and other Scott Nicholson books. He has an eye for the natural beauty of the region he writes about, a heart for his ever so human characters, and he is a wonderful damned story teller. For ghosts, musket battles, and a finely told tale check out Drummer Boy.
Available at Amazon