Readers of Stephen King and Joe Hill will devour this bold, terrifying new novel from Edward M. Erdelac. A mysterious man posing as a Union soldier risks everything to enter the Civil War’s deadliest prison—only to find a horror beyond human reckoning. Georgia, 1864. Camp Sumter, aka Andersonville, has earned a reputation as an open sewer of sadistic cruelty and terror where death may come at any minute. But as the Union prisoners of war pray for escape, cursing the fate that spared them a quicker end, one man makes his way into the camp purposefully.
Barclay Lourdes has a mission—and a secret. But right now his objective is merely to survive the hellish camp. The slightest misstep summons the full fury of the autocratic commander, Captain Wirz, and the brutal Sergeant Turner. Meanwhile, a band of shiftless thieves and criminals known as the “Raiders” preys upon their fellow prisoners. Barclay soon finds that Andersonville is even less welcoming to a black man—especially when that man is not who he claims to be. Little does he imagine that he’s about to encounter supernatural terrors beyond his wildest dreams . . . or nightmares.
About the Author
Edward M. Erdelac is the author of the acclaimed Judeocentic/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah Rider, Buff Tea, Coyote's Trail, Andersonville, and the compiler of Abraham Van Helsing's papers (in Terovolas).
In addition to short story appearances in dozens of anthologies and periodicals, he is an independent filmmaker, an award winning screenwriter, a game designer, and sometime Star Wars contributor.
Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he now lives in the Los Angeles area with his family.
The Confederate-run Andersonville prison was a notorious display of horrors during the Civil War. Union soldiers that were captured and interred there were starved, beaten, subjected to harsh labor duties under the hot Georgia sun, and infected with lice and disease. A line of wooden rails ran across the prison, feet away from the stockade walls, and if the prisoners set so much as a hair over that dead line, they were shot by Confederate sentries manning the wall. Trouble ran rampant within the Union ranks, as well, though, as the heavyweights formed a gang, the Raiders, and attacked, robbed, and killed their fellow inmates for food, clothing, housing, and tradeable goods. It was more concentration camp than prison, and Captain Henry Wirz ruled over the 20- to 40-thousand skeletal prisoners with an iron fist.
The harsh reality of Andersonville is enough to make most blanch and it is a very nasty bit of history in its own right, a grim reminder that oftentimes humans are the most frightening monsters of them all.
To take a subject like Andersonville prison and cast it through the prism of a horror novel, you have to be a very confident writer or else risk undermining that very real history as nothing more than tawdry spectacle.
Edward M. Erdelac, thankfully, is very much in the former category and treats the history respectfully, while also weaving in a solid dose of supernatural worries that prove captivating. He draws much of his story straight from time's past, with Wirz the natural primary villain. Our hero is Barclay Lourdes, a freeman from New Orleans with a penchant for voodoo and a Union spy, who has snuck into the prison to suss out the evils that lie within.
And those evils? Well, they're a doozy, but I don't want to spoil much here. The horrors - both natural and supernatural - that are on display here are well drawn and convincing, at times bloodcurdling. Ederlac does not shy away from the atrocities that men inflicted upon one another in war, or the racist perspectives held by both sides of the Civil War. This is a dark and brutal read, but one that is very well executed and captivating throughout.
Those who have enjoyed Robert McCammon's historical novels featuring Matthew Corbett should find quite a lot to enjoy here, particularly if they're looking for a more straight-up horror-based historical read. There's plenty of demons running amok in Andersonville, and not all of them are human.
[This review is based on an advanced copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]