A literary thriller that culls the lurking dread and primal hunger of the vampire myth, but leaves the cliches at the door.
Stephen King’s Needful Things meets The Poisonwood Bible in an evocative vampire tale as fresh and inventive as The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.
In rural Pennsylvania, a teenage boy is mauled to death.
Hadassah Zook knows what happened, but she isn’t telling. There’s a dreadful secret buried between the furrows of her upright, simple Amish valley.
Another murder lights a fire of suspicion and prejudice in the community. It threatens to destroy everything. The killings draw in two FBI detectives: Jacobo Barrabas and Keith Linguard. But they aren’t the only ones on the hunt in Big Valley.
Those Who Hunger is a suspenseful, paranormal family saga and coming-of-age tale. It explores the consequences of secrecy, suspicion, and loss on a family in the midst of a young girl’s passage into womanhood.
What Readers are Saying:
“A wonderfully woven tapestry of vampire horror and suspense.”
“A complex, spine-chilling tale…”
“A wildly engaging story of tradition, modernity, religion, folklore, and violence.”
“A creative, original, and thrilling read!”
Quaint and cozy as pecan pie, but vicious as a pitchfork, you won’t want to leave Big Valley, but you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough either. The story and characters will stay with you long after its satisfying conclusion.
Banner stitches every heartbreak and revelation into an emotionally riveting exploration of the questions: What makes us monsters: is it desire, deception, loyalty? And how far do you have to go to stop one?
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The small town in this novel is based on my mother's hometown in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I spent a number of summers there as a kid growing up visiting the sale that opens the novel. I've always been fascinated with the Amish and their commitment to abstaining from the world. This novel grew out of a wild "what-if?"
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
When the concept for the novel came to me, I knew I needed to view this world through the eyes of a child discovering the terrors lurking in the fields and even in their own home. Once settling on Hadassah, I wanted to contrast her growing experience of womanhood with that of her mother and show how both women strain against the reigns of cultural expectation.
The mare's black eyes roamed wildly around the corral while the auctioneer rattled off her description. As the man’s voice droned over the speakers, fear rippled outwards from her womb, swarming across the muscled slopes of her lean body like biting flies that nipped at her from every side. It clogged her nostrils and burrowed into her heart. She shook her mane, whinnying against it. Her rear leg pistoned out to strike the wooden gate behind her with the crack of a gun report. Slipping through the slats, her hoof slammed into the chest of Royston Moore. The teenager crumpled to the ground with a whisper of breath as the gate swung open on him.
The mare spun, her hooves throwing hay into the air. She reared towards the open gate. Men shouted around the sale barn, some in English, some in Pennsylvania Dutch. The scuffling of shoes added to the uproar as a few crowded the fence to throw commands at those on the other side.
Lester Davis, Royston’s uncle, grabbed for the mare’s reins. His finger looped through the leather strap and caught for just an instant before the mare jerked her head, yanking him off balance. As he tumbled, he saw the body of his sixteen-year-old nephew, helpless, folded up on his stomach in the path of the crazed horse.
Lying in the dirt and hay, feeling like someone had broken through his ribs and torn out his lungs, Royston was only vaguely aware of the cacophony of hooves and voices. He was too busy watching the stream of saliva drip down from his mouth, through the dust motes under him, and into the straw.
The mare closed on the gate in two strides, her hooves finding their rhythm. Dirt exploded in her wake. Steven Torbit leapt his friend’s body as he ran up the gangway towards the horse. His hands found the gate and shoved it shut, the pin just slipping through the clasp as the mare slammed into it. Wood splintered, and Steve fell back, tripping over Royston. Behind the mare, Lester and Pete Simmons, the horse’s owner, dodged wild kicks to close in and subdue her. Steve rolled Royston over.
“Roy!” he shouted. “Roy, you okay?”
Royston’s face was white, his eyes bulging and red around the rims. He struggled to breathe in.
“Shit, man. Don’t make me do this,” Steve pleaded, looking down at his friend’s lips.
Royston’s eyes stared straight up through the rafters of the barn at the vent swirling above. It was like someone had wound a steel cable around his stomach and was cranking him into the teeth of a winch. His chest spasmed, and an electric ache shot from his back to his brain. He tried to scream, but the only sound he could manage was a dull whisper.
“Ah Roy, come on, man,” Steve said, shaking him by the shoulders.
The horse was quiet, bowing her head to the ground as Pete led her through the other side of the corral into the stables.
Lester turned back to his nephew, striding towards the closed gate, through which he could see his body laying at the knees of Torbit. “Oh, his momma’s gonna kill me,” he muttered.
Steve knew what he had to do, and he didn’t like it. He licked his lips, instinctively. Shit, I’m not gay, he thought. Why am I licking my lips? He wiped them on his sleeve and bent down. His face hovered an inch over Royston’s as his friend’s wide, brown eyes seemed to be staring straight through him at the rafters above. “You better never say nothing about this, Roy,” he said. “I swear. I will kill you if you tell anyone.” He hesitated, then heaved in. His mouth closed around
Royston’s, and he breathed out. When he came off, he heard the whistling of air as it left his friend’s mouth. He breathed in again and bent over Royston, pushing the air down his throat.
The cable around Royston’s chest snapped. His lungs ballooned with the breath. He coughed into his friend’s mouth, and Steve fell back. Lester opened the gate and leaned over his nephew. “Torbit, get off him,” he ordered.
Roy heaved in a chestful, wheezing with the pain. The smell of damp hay, dust, and cow piss had never smelled so good.
“Shit,” he said.
“They’ll put down that damn horse for sure,” his uncle muttered over his shoulder. “Can you get up? Anything broken?”
“I think a rib, maybe,” Royston said, grimacing and lifting his hand to rest on his Mt. Union Trojans t-shirt. “Maybe two,” he said, running his fingers over each rib and staring up at the faces looking down at him from above the gangway.
“Well, try to get up,” Lester said. “This crowd’s not gonna stand around all day watching you two lovebirds sucking face.” He put his hands under Royston’s shoulders and tilted him forward.
“We weren’t-” Steve started to say, but Royston shouted in pain.
“Torbit,” Lester said, “help him up. Take him to the office. I’ll call Doc Sweeney and get him down here. Do not call an ambulance, you hear me? We can’t afford the insurance on that hassle no way. And Roy, don’t call your mother,” he added as Steve positioned Royston’s arm over his shoulders.
“We’ll tell her when I take you home. I don’t want to be catching hell from her over the phone.”
The two boys crept up the gangway as Lester turned back to the corral. “He’s alright folks,” he raised his hands and yelled into the barn, where men and children were standing to get a look at the scene. “Just got the wind knocked out of him.
Everything’s gonna be fine. Now who wants that horse?”
The gathered crowd mumbled laughter. Pete Simmons stood by the auction block, shaking his head, staring into the dirt.
The auctioneer leaned down to him, whispering in his ear.
Pete nodded his head, defeatedly.
The auctioneer turned back to the microphone. “We’re gonna start the bidding at three hundred dollars,” he said. “Can I get three hunrd? Three hunrd? Can I get three hunrd?” his voice began to rattle off.
A sixty-year-old man in a red, white, and blue plaid shirt with a Vietnam War Veteran’s hat lifted his hand.
“I got three hunrd. Can I get three hunrd tweny-fi? Three tweny-fi?”
A younger man with a jean jacket, a mustache, and cowboy boots raised a finger.
“Three tweny-fi. Can I get three fiddy? Three fiddy?” The auctioneer’s eyes scanned the platformed benches of the barn, taking in the hundred or so people inside. “Three fiddy?
The Vietnam veteran lifted his hand again.
“Three fifty,” the auctioneer said. “How bout four hunrd? Four hunrd?”
The man in the jean jacket put a stick of gum in his mouth, shaking his head.
“Three seventy-fi?” the auctioneer came down in sympathy for Pete standing at the base of the auction block, pushing the toe of his boot in the dirt.
A hand went up in the back, the owner of that hand, and a flat-brimmed, straw hat, silhouetted by the window behind him. He was Amish—one of a great number of Amish and Mennonite farmers and tradesmen who lived in nearby communities around Big Valley and attended the Belleville Sale on Wednesday each week.
The auctioneer pointed at him and continued. “How bout that four hunrd? Four hunrd? Who’ll give me four hunrd?”
The Vietnam veteran raised his hand again.
The Amish man pressed his lips together. He had watched the black mare almost trample that teenage boy to death. A horse such as that was like to be a trial on the man who owned it for the rest of his natural life. He had no use for it, and not the money to buy it today and feed it tomorrow. But he knew that man in the red, white, and blue plaid shirt was Ronald Kauffman, a kill-buyer who was only going to take the horse for slaughter. He didn’t know why he wanted to buy this horse. He’d let Ron Kauffman buy plenty of other horses for the slaughterhouse—plenty of better horses. Four hundred dollars was three hundred dollars too much to pay for a tribulation like that one. He decided against it.
“Four hunrd going once. Going twice,” the auctioneer said, raising the gavel.
“Eight hundred dollars,” the Amish man raised his voice, sitting up straight so that the young boy leaning on his lap almost fell down onto the next platformed bench.
Every head in the room, from Pete Simmons to Ron Kauffman turned towards the man sitting erect on his bench, his right hand clenched and white on the splintered wood beside him.
A moment passed, and when the auctioneer regained his composure, he looked at Ron, who sat, arms crossed, shaking his head.
“Sold to Mr. Nehemiah Zook,” the auctioneer said, bringing down his gavel with a clack. “And may God have mercy on your soul,” he muttered as he looked at the register for the next animal.
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