Author: David-Jack Fletcher
Publication Date: 17 November 2022
Available As: Paperback and e-book
When Harry Peck kills a chicken, he never expects the scratching under the floorboards. Or the awful clucking coming from the darkness. As the haunting gets worse, it becomes clear what the chicken wants. It wants Harry dead. It wants his soul.
Can the mysterious Vegan Shaman save Harry? Or will his soul be devoured like … well, chicken?
The Haunting of Harry Peck is a brisk horror novella that jumps between the present day, where we follow the titular Harry Peck, and numerous events in the past that are the subject on ongoing superstition and debate, such as the mysterious event at Roanoke that left a colony devoid of life with only the word “Croatoan” left behind, the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, and even Australia’s Great Emu War. If, like me, you have very little or perhaps no knowledge of these strange events, don’t worry; the writer does a great job of setting the stage, letting you get to know a few key characters, and then going absolutely bonkers with the book’s primary theme of animals returning from the grave for vengeance. This is the situation poor Harry Peck finds himself in; encouraged by his Uncle John to “man up” and take the life of a random, innocent chicken, Harry finds himself immediately haunted by the fowl’s vengeful spirit in a series of ghastly happenings that really give the story a bizarre edge. A masterful balance of comedy, horror, and homage to horror films, the chicken’s ruthless spirit is a combination of a spirit, wraith, and poltergeist (or should that be “poultry-geist”?), emerging from walls, televisions, targeting Harry’s crotch whenever it bursts to unlife, and leaving him frantic for any kind of solution.
Harry’s first thought is to turn to veganism to try and appease the spirit, but when this fails he’s forced to put his faith in the mysterious “Vegan Shaman”, an enigmatic man with experience of similar hauntings who forms a fast bond with the unfortunate Harry and leads him on a journey of self-discovery and resolution to his torment. This is all intercut with the aforementioned flashbacks in which other unjustly killed animals return to take a bloody revenge; emus, raccoons, and rats are all featured, and the gory details are presented unapologetically throughout each incident. I wasn’t expecting this time jump and went into the book expecting simply to follow Harry’s unfortunate situation, so I was pleasantly surprised by the time and effort taken by the author to establish exactly why these animals are returning to take their revenge and why Harry has been so horribly targeted by his malicious chicken. The concept is very intriguing and the book’s message is clear and present throughout: cruelty to animals is inhumane and carries a heavy toll, though obviously this message is taken to a horrific extreme with even the consumption of meat or the use of products such as shampoo that may contain or have been tested on animals being enough to evoke the chicken’s wrath, but it was certainly an entertaining read from start to finish. While it’s only a short tale, the author rounds out Harry’s character nicely, giving him quirks and a bit of a backstory that make him very relatable, and I found the gory imagery and horror tropes evoked to be both familiar and imaginative, so I’d absolutely recommend The Haunting of Harry Peck to fans of the genre or as a pallet cleanser between longer reads.
If you’re interested in checking out The Haunting of Harry Peck, and to learn more about David-Jack Fletcher and his journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.
Excellent review. I can’t wait to read this one now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!