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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

A Winter Haunting

By Dan Simmons
William Morrow, 303 pp, 2002

This book is a sequel to Dan Simmons' excellent horror novel Summer of Night, which I read years ago and, to be honest, don't remember much of it. I do remember it being very good, very scary, original, and well-written. So when I saw this in the library, I snatched it up.

Simmons has written other fine horror novels, like Carrion Comfort and Children of the Night, but then he went into science fiction and I lost interest in him. I'm glad he's returned to the horror genre.

This book picks up with a fifty-something Dale Stewart in a full mid-life crisis. He's divorced from his wife and daughters because of a torrid affair with a hot young college student (Dale is a college English professor in Montana) and being treated for depression. He's already tried to kill himself, but the shotgun misfired.

In an effort to get his life straight, he decides to spend his sabbatical year writing a novel in the home of his old friend Duane, the fat, genius kid who was killed in Summer of Night. Dale is the author of a popular series of mountain man novels, but now he wants to write a serious novel about that long-ago summer in 1960, a summer he only dimly remembers.

Needless to say, strange things start happening at the house and around town, and that's all I'll say about that.

Duane is in this novel, although he's long dead. It's a nice little twist that could have turned out very badly but Simmons makes it work.

The novel is hard to categorize - it could be a straight ghost story, or horror novel, or even psychological thriller. It's really all three. Again, such a tactic is risky, but Simmons is a great writer and, in my opinion, pulls it off wonderfully.

This is a great book, eerie, moody, full of atmosphere, a tad slow in the beginning, with several flashbacks about Dale's affair and how it ended. It all comes together in the end, in a satisfying and unique way. Again, I can't say any more or I'll give it away.

I hate it when people give away endings.

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