This week I would like to introduce C. G. Bauer, author of Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible, which was originally published by the now-defunct Drollerie Press in 2008. It has recently been reissued as an e-book, which is lucky for us, because hopefully more people will have the chance to read this well-crafted, atmospheric and completely engaging horror story.
Scars takes place in 1964 when Wump, our feisty main character, is 65 years old and living a fairly quiet life as a church handy-man in the small town of Three Bridges, PA. Quiet that is, until an accident at a construction site reveals the skeletons of babies at the bottom of a sink hole, and Wump’s past comes rushing back. Wump, you see, has seen one of these skeletons before, back in 1909 when he was a ten-year-old orphan living at St. Jerome’s Home for Foundlings. Bauer gleefully details this gruesome encounter in his prologue, and the stage is set for the horrors to come.
Wump is surrounded by interesting characters that are crucial to the outcome of the story, and two of my favorites are Leo and Raymond, orphaned boys that live in the same St. Jerome’s that Wump lived in as a child. Leo is a happy, but slow, boy whose greatest joys are running errands for Wump and pushing his best friend Raymond around in his wheelchair. Raymond is not only unable to walk, but is blind and mute as well. As damaged as Leo and Raymond appear, though, we soon learn that they are eerily aware of just what is happening in Three Bridges, and both can communicate in unusual ways.
Wump befriends the new Parish priest Father Duncan, a former pro baseball player, and together they uncover a strange book in the convent library during a visit to see one of the orphans. The Codex Gigas, or the Devil’s Bible as it is also known, was reputedly written by a monk in one night with the help of the devil, and inside the book Wump and Father Duncan discover the ghastly meaning behind the remains of the babies in the sink hole, involving the birth of the antichrist. Pitted against the archaic beliefs of the Catholic Church, Wump sets out to stop the evil that seems to be rising in Three Bridges.
Creepiness abounds in Scars on the Face of God, and it’s not all supernatural. One of these elements is the Volkheimer Tannery, which has been operating in Three Bridges since Wump was a boy. Many years of poisonous chemicals seeping into the ground and air have made Three Bridges a dangerous place to live, evident in the number of deformed and handicapped children that live there. Many families in the town have been affected in one way or another by its poisonous presence, including Wump, whose son has died from leukemia. The malignant pall of the tannery lurks beneath the surface throughout the story, and indeed it plays an important part by the end of the book.
As Good Friday approaches and the church prepares to reenact the Way of the Cross, the forces of good and evil are about to clash head-on. Wump, Father Duncan, Leo and Raymond, after discovering that there is indeed an antichrist among them, must fight for their lives and diffuse the evil before it takes over. There are some surprising transformations of several characters, a terrible choice involving Wump’s wife Viola, and Wump’s discovery of his birth mother, not to mention the final showdown that is as good as anything written by Stephen King. The book’s pacing is immaculate, and the dreaded feeling that the devil is about to appear make this a truly scary and unsettling read.
Many thanks to the author for supplying a free review copy.