Devil’s Night by Curtis M. Lawson

Devil’s Night is a collection focusing primarily on the myths and urban legends emerging from the darkness and the destructive tendencies of people during the Devil’s Night eruptions of violence and arson in Detroit. It would be easy to write off Curtis M. Lawson’s short story collection as an outlet for bleak and cynical tales of horror lurking below the surface of those actions, but it would only be telling a fraction of the story. There is a deep and abiding love for Detroit embedded within these tales. Lawson’s is a love that doesn’t cling with shallow superficiality to the glory days of the motor city or Motown but embraces the painful and often ugly reality that coincides with those things that once set Detroit apart from the rest of America.
In these pages, you’ll certainly find stories of the Nain Rouge, The Pig Lady, and other urban legends that are specific to that region, but you’ll also find the far more sinister forces at work, racism, predatory capitalism, and addiction. In Lawson’s Devil’s Night, you’ll meet a city that has a nebulous mind and spirit of its own, one poisoned by generations of residents and the corruption they brought with them. You’ll discover a Detroit where toxic, venomous plantlife flourishes beneath the surface, ready to flay alive any who stumble across it, poisoning those who survive with unquenchable hate and anger.
In Trash-Fire Stories and The Work of the Devil, we meet children who have experienced every tragedy life can throw at them, each event preceded by the appearance of the Nain Rouge, presaging the bad things soon to come.
In D20, we learn that two brothers attempting to escape the cruel reality of their lives through a role-playing game might be awakening a force to affect the real changes they so desperately need.
Devil’s Tongue and The Exorcism of Detroit, Michigan both take us to a place where we catch glimpses of the underlying evil that poisons the city and turns the residents into the monsters they’ve become as Devil’s Night arrives. The latter tale providing the reader with a certain sense of hope and faith that things can be better.
Through Hell for One Kiss shares a haunting love story that proves to be a quite literal haunting for those caught up in the annual remembrance of the ghosts involved.
A Night of Art and Excess showcases the awfulness and depravity of human nature and greed, without any supernatural scapegoat to assuage the guilt.
No One Leaves the Butcher Shop tells the story of a pair of arsonists who stumble across something far worse than homeless people encamped within the building they’ve been hired to burn.
The Graveyard of Charles Robert Swede takes us on a journey with a monstrous serial killer who learns–as the line between our world and another are blurred–the truth behind why he’s chosen the burial site he’s utilized for the disposal of his victims.
We discover that even the devil has standards and sometimes a more stringent moral code than the clergy in This City Needs Jesus.
There’s more within this collection than solely the stories I’ve referenced, but these are the ones that stood out the most for me. Interspersed through the book are numerous illustrations that are positively magnificent. It was these illustrations that first brought this collection by Lawson to my attention, and as awesome as they might be, they’re no more spectacular than the stories they reference.
I wish I had read this collection in the final days of October because this book is so perfect for reading at that time of year. If you have a chance to read this for the first time, I recommend doing so at that time. You will not regret the decision.