Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"August Heat" by William Fryer Harvey

This was a quick, but very interesting and (dare I say it?!) realistic story. Any self-respecting criminal justice major knows that the number of violent crimes reaches its peak during the hot summer months. And any lay person knows that they're unquestionably and irrationally more cranky and prone to anger during the summer; it's just too hot to be able to think clearly and calmly. William Fryer Harvey takes advantage of this little nuance, and adds an aura of supernatural intervention, to get the adrenaline going.

A young artist named James Clarence Withencroft finds himself, after an afternoon devoted to sketching, drawing an image of an obsese gentleman just after a court trial, with an expression "not so much one of horror as of utter, absolute collapse". It's plain to surmise that this figure just suffered a loss in court, presumably to a serious charge. Upon going for a short walk, James finds himself outside a monumental mason's shop, and lets himself in to investigate what brought his feet to this shop of their own accord. Who does the mason happen to be, but the spitting image of his sketch! What's more, this mason, Atkinson, was just finishing up a headstone for a convention of gravestones (kinda creepy in its own right). Guess whose name and birthday are on that stone. SURPRISE! James Clarence Withencroft. And it appears that the date of death happens to be that next day. They plan for James to spend the night, to prevent any kind of accident occurring on the way back to his house that would cut his life short. But the heat is stifling, and there's no telling what it might do to the rationale and intellect of an otherwise sane man...

I like this story. While most of the horror of it is left up to the reader's imagination (just what happens when the story ends?), it successfully creates an air of tension and anticipation throughout the pages. I almost expected a climax where the conclusion happened to be. Very well done, and what's great is that while this story involves rather extreme and violent potential behavior, this idea of heat causing something bad to happen is more real than a lot of people would like to believe. Don't believe me? Go check some crime reports. I'm off to read some more short stories :)

- Justin

1 comment:

  1. Justin,

    I enjoyed your summary of the short story, and your analysis. I agree that most of the horror of the story is left up to the reader's imagination.

    Incidentally, I'm doing a "short film" adaptation of August Heat. If you get a chance, I would be humbled if you can check out the website and maybe pass it along to anyone you know who may be interested. Thanks!­ugu­st-­hea­t?r­ef=­liv­e