STARR CREEK BY NATHAN CARSON IS A LITERARY ACID TRIP
BY CHRISTOPHER LESKO
The colorful, tripped-out cover featuring alien Cyclops mushroom monsters had me hooked before I even cared to find out what the story was about. I was ready to tune in and drop out, get lost for awhile on some kind of weird psychedelic adventure—and that I did. You can probably read the book faster than an acid trip lasts because it’s filled with action and suspense. But I suggest slowing it down. Take in a deep breath; forget where you are, exhale, and let words transform into worlds.
Starr Creek is the name of a road actually existing in the backwoods of Oregon, which gives it a dose of disturbing reality. Most likely some of the story is based off local legends or far-stretched truths the author overheard or experienced while growing up in that area. The story uses specific dates in the summer of 1986 as well as a couple other time periods, much like a case study. But I think mostly to keep track of time during flashbacks and as an easy way to realize what year it is. Although, many accurately described pop culture references are scattered throughout; and done so naturally, not to distract a reader who didn’t grow up in the 80’s. I was seven in 1986, nearly the same age as two of the youngest male characters. Reading along had me discovering similar interests I shared with them in my youth. We totally would have been friends; same with the trio of teenage characters. It was as if the author copied a page out of my high school days (or daze).
What is clever about the story telling of Starr Creek is the way it intertwines the lives of these groups of characters as well as a few others without getting the reader lost—mostly because the chapters are relatively short and simple. The two young-bloods just want to look at nudie magazines and play arcade games. The trio of teenagers just wants to enjoy their LSD experience while hanging loose in the serenity of nature. But when the lowlifes nestled in the backwoods creep out—sometimes even popping out from underground trails—they turn up the bizarre and bring in some hell. Cranking the dial of bizarre up to eleven is the pagan cult and their black goat. I don’t want to give too much away about them because I’m afraid I might have a flashback now, but yeah … some insane shit happens between the goat and one of the young-bloods. Yet the ultimate experience, like being at a heavy metal concert (side note: the author is also the drummer in the metal band Witch Mountain), is when the H.P. Lovecraftian monsters come out to mess with everyone involved in the story. I was left cheering and wanting an encore.
For now, the encore will be whatever Nathan Carson releases next, possibly a story set seventy-five years after 1986. In the meantime, Starr Creek has me wanting to jam out to the crusty stoner-doom sounds of Witch Mountain, re-watch the cult classic 80’s movie Rivers Edge and the latest ode to 80’s nostalgia: Stranger Things.
Christopher Lesko is the author of The Grlz Like Vodka, Long Live Crazy, That’s My Ghoul, The Electric Lunatic, and a handful of deranged short stories. Other creative outlets of his include photography, video production, graphic design, and abstract painting. He lives in Youngstown, Ohio.