June 2002

Jessa Crispin


Ordinary Horror by David Searcy

"Here's a horror story for you." David Searcy's Ordinary Horror opens gently, like someone telling you a bedtime story, only this story is told with strange plants, howling at night, and "a very bad dog." This is a bedtime story that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and not let you sleep.

Frank Deblano is a widower living in a suburban neighborhood. He doesn't talk much and prefers to be left alone. Most of his time is spent looking after his roses. When gopher holes appear around his favorite Old-Fashioned rose (he and his wife found it on a trip together), he wants them gone. He's adverse to poisons or traps, but one day an ad appears in the paper. "How to Chase Gophers from Your Yard and Garden: Get Rid of Burrowing Rodents without Traps or Poisons."

Only the ad was wrong. The ad was for non-flowering plants. The ad claimed the plants were not harmful to humans or other animals. Then why are the plants blooming large blue rose-like flowers? And why are lampposts suddenly cluttered with "Lost Dog" and "Lost Cat" posters?

The plants seem to be affecting him and his neighbors as well. He hears the neighbor's daughter shrieking in the middle of the night. A strange red dust fills his house. However, the less you know about this story, the more you will enjoy it. Nothing in the story is over the top or melodramatic. Instead, it's a series of happenings that just seem… off. These happenings build up under your skin until you suddenly realize there's no way you could put this book down.

Ordinary Horror has classic elements of freakiness. You've seen them before in movies and books. The company that ceases to exist after you buy a product that puts your life in danger; the child who draws the same image over and over again; the unknown animal stalking the outer edges of the town. What's unusual about the book is the use of these elements. Nothing in this book takes a suspension of disbelief. The ending is strange and climactic, but at the same time, it's subtler than you first realize. You have to put some of the pieces together yourself. I've always appreciated that in books.

This is a simple, old-fashioned horror story. It's a small book with only 230 pages, and it reads quickly, making it the perfect summer read. If you like your horror to be filled with telepathic alien invasions, I hear Stephen King's recent works may be right for you. However, if you would like to be dragged through a creepy little story that can make your house plants seem menacing, look no further.

Ordinary Horror by David Searcy
Published by Viking
230 Pages