Reviews of Dark Fiction

Burntbridge Boys by John F. Leonard

A decaying football stadium, a man whose days playing football are at an end, and a haunted (?) watch. Combine all these, shake it up and you have BurntBridge Boys.

I can’t say too much without spoilers as this is a novella, but it turns out that the world of professional football, (or to us Americans, soccer), is a nasty one. Players and people in the know have been known to pay off other players or officials to get games to go a certain way. Sam “the butcher” Rafferty is one of those people in the know, since his days of playing football are now over. Then, he is given a watch. A very special watch. What does it do? What does Sam do? You’ll have to read this to find out!

Not gonna lie, my knowledge about soccer is just about nil. I know it’s popular everywhere else but here, in America. Luckily, I didn’t need any knowledge to understand what was happening here. A little more knowledge about English words and phrases may have helped, though mostly I was able to draw conclusions based on the surrounding words and events. In the main, this is another great story in a growing pile of great stories that I’ve read from John Leonard!

I’m looking forward to reading more from him in the future because he never disappoints.

*I received an e-copy of this novella in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

Burntbridge Boys Book Cover Burntbridge Boys
John F. Leonard
Horror, Dark Fiction
Independently Published

It's 1979 and Sammy Rafferty is on the run. From the past. From the police. And, perhaps more importantly, from some rather unfriendly criminal types. He thinks his football dreams are over, but that might not be the case. He's run to Burntbridge Lye. A place where dreams don't always die. Sammy “the butcher” Rafferty has long since kissed his playing days goodbye. Never kicking a competitive ball again was a hard pill to swallow and he’s not ready for his managerial career to come to an untimely end. The thought of forever being shut out of football makes his heart sink and feet itch. There isn’t any choice. The cards have been dealt and you have to play the hand you’re given. Sammy grits his teeth and gets on with it. Life settles into monotony and offers only boredom and frustration …until he comes across an old football ground nestled in the back of beyond. He can almost hear the roar of the crowd as he parks at the gates of the deserted Burntbridge Palmers, a decaying stadium on the outskirts of Bledbrooke Town. The club that won’t die could be just the place for a man who still has a gleam in his eye. After all, they’re both ghosts that won’t go away. Burntbridge Boys is about a lot of things. Horror, for sure. No doubt there. Old school horror, with a twist. A ghost story where the ghosts aren’t really dead. A fond reminiscence of football, back before football became completely commercialised? Yes, definitely, soccer plays its part. Although, it has to be said, the beautiful game is sometimes less than beautiful in Burntbridge Boys. It can be somewhat ugly and …disturbing. And often more than a game. Deceit and double-dealing? Yeah, there’s a fair-sized chunk of that. It might also be about power passed into hands too fragile for the holding. The darkness hidden in human hearts which is best kept hidden and secrets that are better not revealed. Society and its cruel attitudes, before society became an equally dreadful click-driven social media experiment. You’ll draw your conclusions - that’s one of the joys of reading. On a more prosaic level, is there such a thing as a football horror story? Let alone one set in the past which wallows in a darkly imagined history of the game. Who knows? When the Dead Boxes are involved, anything is possible. Such items have always been scary things. Even in the swinging Sixties and glam-shock punk revolution of the Seventies, they contained a terrifying mix of horror and salvation. Throw the Scaeth Mythos into the mix and stuff gets decidedly multi-dimensional. There are different realities and the walls which separate them can be paper thin. The tiniest tear can allow horror and madness to bleed through.

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