An engrossing, thrilling and immensely satisfying debut novel that strongly reminded me of the best of Stephen King. If you get this book, and I highly recommend you do, expect to be pulled deeply into the deep and twisting story about good and evil from the first paragraph.
The temperatures are hot and getting hotter, and there’s no sign of rain in Junction, Texas. Many of the old-timers have experienced conditions like this before, and they know what’s coming. A rancher kills his best livestock before turning the gun on himself, just the first of a series of disturbing events in the small town.
Meanwhile on the other end of the drought, the heat is also rising as a small-town sheriff in Louisiana makes a gruesome and surprising discovery. The drought has been here before, too, and some people are worried about what the return of the hot, dry weather may mean.
Scanning the list of semi-finalists for the contest (my novel was also on the list), the premise of The Drought caught my eye; I couldn’t wait to see how the author would deliver on the cover tagline: “Killer heat is only the beginning.” The short answer is: Ms. Fulton delivered a great read that surprised and thrilled me in equal measure.
Ms. Fulton lived through a drought in Texas, and that experience informs her wonderfully gritty description of what happens to the landscape and people during extended and relentless sun and heat. The characters are varied and believable — not an easy feat considering the wide range of ages and backgrounds in her cast — the plot moves relentlessly forward and there are more than a few truly creepy moments.
No spoilers, but the author spends about the first half of The Drought setting the stage, laying out the pieces of the puzzle as it were, and then the pay off starts as the various plotlines begin to come together and the story behind the story comes into focus. The ending is, well, pretty neat.
I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy stories like that.
I haven’t read much of Stephen King’s recent work — The Dark Tower series was the latest for me — but I greatly enjoyed earlier novels like Salem’s Lot, The Shining and especially The Stand. One chapter into The Drought and I was checking Ms. Fulton’s bio on Goodreads to see, sure enough, she considered King an influence. It shows, because reading her debut novel was for me like taking a trip back in time to when I devoured The Stand, reading late into the night because I had to find out what would happen next in that great good vs. evil epic.
I’m not a big fan of comparison (“If you like this, you’ll like that”), but for Indie authors I absolutely understand how making a connection helps potential readers make the decision to try an unknown name. If you enjoy Stephen King or Dean Koontz, I’m confident you will love Patricia Fulton’s The Drought.
But don’t think for a moment you’ll be getting a less-expensive imitation like a Times Square “Rolex.” The Drought stands on its own merits as a great read with thrills and chills — yep, even in all that burning heat, you’ll shiver.