[For the previous countdown post, click here.]
22. “Backbite” (2016)
Lovecraft (whose weird tale “The Hound” intersects with Partridge’s plot) meets Steinbeck in this hardboiled cosmic horror story. The narrator and his brother Russ (a scarred and haunted veteran of the Great War’s trenches) are a pair of drifters/migrant workers/petty criminals on the move, their every step dogged by trouble and terror. Along the way they encounter private cops wielding switchman’s clubs, an oracular corpse, and an undead boar–all that before Lovecraft’s hellish hound scrabbles onto the scene (his spectacularly macabre attack combatted by a Winchester shotgun). Partridge does an excellent job of establishing the Depression-era setting (something, he admits in the story’s headnote, that he has found lacking in Lovecraft’s own work), and his polished prose makes the darkness gleam. With lines like “He just stared ahead, his one eye glazed as if a spider had spun cobwebs around his brain,” “Backbite” is a piece that genre readers will sink their teeth into with relish.