Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Letter from Hell by William Presley

A Letter from HellIn a desperate attempt to save his soul before he dies, southern aristocrat William Virgil Hollingsmore writes the world a cautionary letter on the last of his twelve days in a personalized Hell. In it, through the haze of his own mental deterioration, he chronicles the horrors and agony that befell him at the hands of Satan, as well as the sad events leading up to this unfortunate climax.

When Hollingsmore was a younger man, he was an alcoholic and did as he pleased when drunk. He's older now and full of regret. Upon returning home, he finds that Satan is chomping at the bit to claim him and drag him on down to Hell for his eternal punishment. This is a man desperately trying to find a way to avoid his fate. There is no excusing his past behavior, so it is difficult to sympathize with him. But does he deserve to burn in Hell? His "letter from Hell" is his attempt to find redemption by warning others.

Hollingsmore serves as protagonist and narrator. As such, we only get to see the other characters when he interacts with them. There is a chapter where Hollingsmore is put through out of body flashbacks in order to learn what suffering he has inflicted upon the people in his life. Satan is obviously the antagonist, but his character only sees development when he shows up to torment Hollingsmore. I wouldn't say that he's two-dimensional, but he doesn't stray from what we expect of him.

A Letter from Hell reminds me of old fashioned horror—more concerned with chills and suspense than gross outs and visceral gore. The writing style Presley uses reads like something out of the Romantic movement of the 19th century, which produced such notable greats as Poe and Coleridge. Presley forgoes the purple prose but retains the suffocating imagery and puts it to use at all the appropriate times. While in the midst of Hollingsmore's recounting of his ordeals, I was often reminded of Vincent Price horror movies from the 60's.

A Letter from Hell is William Presley's first novel. There are times when I felt it could've used another round of proofreading to remove extraneous commas and freshen up the dusty writing style he chose. However, it should be noted that when it was published earlier this year Presley was only a junior in high school. I could not have written something this good back when I was his age. I have no doubt that if Presley sticks to it and continues to work at his craft, we will see great things from him in the years ahead.

I don't have an author's website to point you to, so I'll just state that A Letter from Hell is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and even Google.

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