Author: Matthew Cowden
Publisher: Anarchy Books
Page count/Size: Kindle
Release date: Nov 2011
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
According to author Matthew Cowden, who gives a succinct summary of his novel Dark Asylum, the novel is a tribute to the gothic horror novel with the pace and violence of a modern horror tale. It takes place in 1895/1896, in Pittsburgh, PA, in the US.
It tells the story of a governess who is hiding from her dark past with an insane family in a haunted house. She is caring for a mute boy who has had some kind of mysterious trauma in the past. Emily, the governess/ heroine, also finds a hidden journal that was written the boy’s grandpa, Edgar Gaskell. The novel interweaves horrific journal entries with the madness of the Gaskell mansion. There are numerous mysteries throughout the book, murder, a few plot twists, and some extremely dark and savage moments. It has a little bit of everything for the fan of mystery and horror.
All of the character names are derivatives of famous 19th Century writers/characters. The novel, despite its 19th century setting, does contain the odd modern colloquialism which jars a little, and there are some typo errors, however, overall this novel achieves what it sets out to achieve.
Perhaps the most authentic part of the novel is Gaskell’s journal entries, which highlight the horrors of war and also the true nature of evil. For aficionados of the period, there is also a satisfying conclusion to Edgar’s secrets.
Gruesome, visceral and fun, Dark Asylum is worth a look.
Where did the idea come from?
It is hard to tell you this without giving away the major plot twist of the novel. The main idea had been stewing in my head for some time, but then my sister, Jessica, and I were on a gothic novel reading kick. I was going back to Anne Radcliffe, even bought a copy of The Necromancer by Peter Teuthold. Wow. What a crazy book. Anyway, I decided I would take my “idea” and throw it into a gothic novel. The mansion in the book was inspired by a real-life haunted house in Pittsburgh’s North Side. It had such a wicked history that it caught fire and burned. No one knows how it blew up, but many suspect ghosts were at hand. The insane asylum in my book was also real. It has been ripped down now, sadly.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was in grade school. I always wanted to be a writer. I tried to write short stories and screenplays in my 20’s, but my stuff was too weird, and I needed to work on my craft and live life a little. Once my wife and I had our two kids, I started writing novels. I had a children’s fantasy novel published, Emma McDougal and The Quest for Father Time, a few years back. I am looking into republishing it and finishing the series I had originally intended to write.
Freakshow (out from Anarchy Books soon) sounds good. Tell us about it.
Ah, yes, Freakshow. I see Freakshow as my personal little baby. It all started years back as a film school project. It was originally a screenplay that I had signed an option deal with a Hollywood agent. Nothing ever came out of it, so I then recently decided to turn it into a novel. It is a surrealistic, very dark, often funny, but gross tale of a circus geek who sells his soul to Satan for fame and fortune as a vaudeville ventriloquist and Hollywood star. It takes place in the 1920’s, a ghastly but beautiful tribute to the stage, the circus, and the early days of film. It is filled with laughs, horrific murders, stage antics, love, and numerous cameos. I am so thrilled that Andy Remic over at Anarchy-Books has decided to publish it. There will always be a place in my heart for it, for all the hoops I have had to jump to see this show come to life.