Chasing the Boogeyman is one of the most highly anticipated genre novels released this summer and has already gone into a second printing before the first printing has even found its way into the hands of constant readers! Richard Chizmar, a longtime horror author and the founder and editor of the Cemetery Dance zine, puts himself in the center of a murder mystery in this unusual and absorbing exercise in metafiction.
Metafiction is usually defined as a self-conscious literary style in which the narrator or characters are aware that they are part of a work of fiction, but it can also indicate a book like Chasing the Boogeyman, in which the author inserts himself into the narrative. Comedian Steve Allen and musician Greg Kihn both did this in their respective series of mystery novels, and the great Bret Easton Ellis even did it in his sequel to Less Than Zero, Imperial Bedrooms. Staged photos and faux excerpts from newspapers add a layer of authenticity to Chasing the Boogeyman. This device was also used in another book I loved, Night Film, but overall I don’t care for the illustrations, as I’d rather use my imagination.
Part autobiography, part mystery, part supernatural thriller, Chasing the Boogeyman is set in the late 1980s when Rich, a young budding author, has just completed college and is about to marry and begin his life as a novelist. He’s spending one last “boyhood” summer with his parents, in the small Maryland town where he grew up, enjoying the lazy days… until his teenage neighbor is found murdered and mutilated, apparently snatched from her bedroom as she slept. And then it happens again.
With the help of his friend, a reporter for the local newspaper, Rich puts together the pieces of the gruesome mystery, which actually goes back much further and from darker depths than anyone could have known. Once a curfew is imposed, and the FBI is called in to assist local law enforcement, Rich finds himself compulsively drawn into the investigation. When an unsettling rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens are not entirely human, the once peaceful community is snared in paranoia and suspicion and beginning to fear that the nightmare will never end.
I’ll admit that I had a little trouble “getting into” this book, especially at the very beginning with the long, detailed history of Edgewood, MD., being laid out. I would have preferred a scary or shocking hook to grab me, then be fed the backstory in smaller pieces. But I’m not the New York Times bestselling author—Chizmar is, and so far, the reviews of Chasing the Boogeyman have been excellent, so I’m in the minority here. Once the story kicks into gear, it is a page-turner.
Fans of books like Stephen King’s The Outsider and television shows like Unsolved Mysteries are sure to enjoy Chasing the Boogeyman.