One of my favorite books of the last few years is John Langan’s incredible The Fisherman, the 2016 Stoker Award winner.
The Fisherman tells the story of two grieving men who become friends because of their shared passion for fishing (as a means to take their minds off the grief). The hear of a mysterious creek that’s not on any map and decide to seek it out.
On the way there, they meet a man who warns them against going there, and the bulk of the book is this third man’s story of why Abe and Dan shouldn’t go there. He tells them the history of the creek and of the mysterious Fisherman.
Here’s how Abe describes the meeting and starts the story of the Dutchman’s Creek:
If I say there was more truth to Howard’s tale than I first believed, I don’t suppose it’ll come as much surprise. What I find almost as remarkable is that I can recall pretty much everything Howard said, verbatim. Given what was to happen to Dan and me, maybe that isn’t such a surprise. But I can recall everything Howard didn’t say as well.
Some months after all this, when the summer had turned hot and dry, I sat down at the kitchen table, a pen in one hand, a pad of legal paper in front of me. Howard’s story had been gnawing at me for weeks, and I had decided to write down what I could remember of it. I expected the task would take me an afternoon, maybe a little longer. How long could it take to write down an hour’s worth of talking, right? I’ve never been much of a writer, and I spent as much time lining things out as iI did putting them down, but I wanted to copy down everything I could recall of what Howard had said, get all of it exactly right. By the time the first night had rolled around, my hand was still moving that pen across the paper. For the next four days, I wrote. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and I understood that the story had passed to me, that somehow, Howard had tucked it inside me.
The story is told in a straightforward manner; Langan gives us no respite with humor, no break or interlude. The story moves on and pulls us under.
We hear the story of The Fisherman, which takes up fully two-thirds of the book and is some of the best horror you are likely to read.
Langan then takes us back to Abe and Dan, as they go fishing in the Dutchman’s Creek, against common sense.
Of course, they then go further into the woods, further into madness and deep into John Langan’s signature literary horror.
The book is, in a word, fantastic. Truly a book that all fans of horror should read.
The New York Times…
The New York Times reviewed The Fisherman, along with Brian Evenson’s excellent sci-fi horror The Warren,
The review is mostly favorable, ending as follows:
Langan writes elegant prose, and the novel’s rolling, unpredictable flow has a distinctive rhythm, the rise and fall of its characters’ real grief. These fishermen are restless men, immobilized but never truly at peace. Again and again, they cast their lines in the hope of catching something, anything, that will restore them to who they were. Abe characterizes himself as “desperate for any chance to recover what I’d lost, no matter what I had to look past to do so,” and you feel that sad urgency on every page of his strange and terrifying and impossible story.
Select quotes from Amazon reviews
Below are a few quotes from Amazon.com reviews of The Fisherman that I agree with 100%.
The Fisherman combines Weird Fiction and Literary Horror, brewing a cocktail of unsettling imagery and a premise that invokes curiosity and intrigue. Imagine the horrors of Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth” bred with the mysterious surrealism of Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, and you have The Fisherman, an epic piece that treads the border between literary fiction and downright hair-raising horror. The novel reads like that of a classic, while maintaining the atmosphere of weird fiction that is, by all means, unforgettable.The Gehenna Post, review on Amazon.com
For what is a work of horror, The Fisherman is vastly literate, at times complex and filled with numerous characters and events although Abe and Dan are meant to be the focus at both the beginning and the end of the novel. It contains surprising beauty and repugnant evil, vivid visual and sensual details, a purposefully distorted vision of ancient mythology, and an ever present feeling of dread. The setting for most of the novel, considering the related events as well as many of the proceedings themselves, borders upon the surreal. Yet, behind it all there remains a surprising foundation of humanity.Eclectic Reader, Amazon.com review
I cannot recommend this book enough for fans of Lovecraft, Stephen King, Robert McCammon and Dan Simmons.