Author Ronald Malfi Brings “Small Town Horror” To Severna Park

Park Books Event Scheduled For June 6


Maybe this is a ghost story…

So begins “Small Town Horror,” the newest novel by Ronald Malfi, a 1995 graduate of Severna Park High School and a Cape St. Claire resident.

“Small Town Horror” is the 19th novel by Malfi, who has also penned eight novellas. This book hits shelves June 4, and Malfi is inviting the community to celebrate with him during an author talk and book signing at Park Books on June 6.

The visit is part of what he called “‘Small Town Horror’ Supports Small Town Bookstores,” promoting indie bookstores around the country that have supported his career.

In his newest twisted tale, five childhood friends are forced to confront their own dark past as well as a curse placed upon them.

“‘Small Town Horror’ is sort of a sister novel to my book ‘Black Mouth,’ so where Black Mouth focuses on a group of kids who are coerced into doing something that has tragic results and they’re essentially innocent in that novel, ‘Small Town Horror’ focuses on a group of kids who are guilty of doing something tragic,” Malfi said. “I wanted to explore the ying and the yang of both of those elements to look at the difference in the story where kids who coerced into doing something beyond their control versus kids who are proactive in doing something terrible and what the repercussions of those actions are.”

Those friends are Andrew Larimer, who is settling into a new life in New York, far from his hometown; Eric, now the town’s deputy sheriff; Dale, a real-estate mogul living in the shadow of a failed career; Andrew’s childhood sweetheart, Tig, who never could escape town; and Meach, whose ravings about a curse upon the group have driven him to madness.

Readers may not like every character, but Malfi hopes readers understand their motivations.

“I think if characters are relatable, whether they are likable or not, as long as they are relatable, and you give their story justice and you understand where they are coming from then that makes for an interesting character and for a story that kind of propels itself based on those characters,” Malfi said.

“There are plenty of unlikable characters,” he said. “You can read Bret Easton Ellis’ ‘American Psycho.’ Nobody’s sitting there rooting for Patrick Bateman, but you can understand the logic of where this person is coming from, even if you don’t agree with it, and that makes it compulsive for you to read it and to follow his story.”

A fan of authors Peter Straub and Ernest Hemingway, Malfi has been honing his craft for more than 20 years. He follows the common writing advice, to “write what you know,” by setting Maryland as the backdrop for many of his stories. “Small Town Horror” is no different, as it is set in the fictional town of Kingsport.

“I write the people. I write the locales,” Malfi said of his affinity for Maryland. “The foods in my books are dressed in Old Bay seasoning. That’s where I come from. This book is no different there, and I think it kind of stands as a centerpiece to everything I’ve done to this point to say, ‘Look, hey, here’s the showcase. Here’s everything that I feel I do well or that my readership feels I do well, which is presenting kind of down-home characters in a small-town environment, that veil of that quasi-supernatural element that runs through my stuff that enhances the dark element of my fiction, and it’s all based here locally in Maryland. This book in particular is on the Eastern Shore, where I am really at home. So to write a book called ‘Small Town Horror’ that focuses on what I feel is my own small town, where I live and grew up, kind of enhances that for me.”

“Small Town Horror” has received praise from several of Malfi’s peers including Gabino Iglesias, the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson award-winning author of “The Devil Takes You Home.”

“Malfi is horror’s (William) Faulkner, and ‘Small Town Horror’ might be his best novel yet,” Iglesias wrote in a promotion for the book. “Stylish, dark, and with a haunting, salty atmosphere, this is a superb novel about how the ghosts of the past always dance with those of the present.”

Even though the novel is classified as horror, a descriptor that even appears in its title, Malfi wants his book to transcend genre. Some of his stories are mysteries or thrillers as much as they are horror tales, but they have one thing in common: they “bend dark.”

“I think at their core, everything I write is about people and it’s about, regardless of genre, what it is that those elements do to resonate with the readership at large,” Malfi said.

Whether they are drawn to the plight of the characters, the Maryland-inspired details or mystery, readers of varying interests can find something interesting in Malfi’s new novel.

Is “Small Town Horror” a ghost story? Read to find out.


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