Devil in the Basement: White Supremacy, Satanic Ritual and My Family

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Devil in the Basement: White Supremacy, Satanic Ritual and My Family sounds positively intriguing.

It was not. Well, in fairness, that’s not entirely true. The story itself, once you get through the seemingly endless scene-setting and the clumsy prose, is indeed pretty fascinating, despite the author’s best efforts.

The story of the novel is a fictionalized rendering of the author’s great-uncle’s life. As the foreword to the novel explains, Charlotte Laws was adopted, and the story she tells is one she only discovered upon beginning to research her biological family. That story, too, it turns out, is more interesting than most of this book. The book itself shuffles along, drearily following the daily life of the Moroose clan, who are eking out a living in 1930s West Virginia. Unfortunately for the reader, there are nine children in the Moroose family, and we have to learn about all of them. After three-quarters of the book has passed, we finally encounter the intrigue promised in the title and discover that it’s really Tucker, one of the older brothers, who runs up against the advertised satanic worship, etc., etc.

Laws’s writing is clumsy at best and (frequently) insufferable at worst. She evidently compiled an extensive glossary of slang terms from the era, and she feels compelled to use every single one of them–poorly. For example, from a single exchange: “‘They told me a tall tale,’ Margaret confided in Tucker. ‘I work my fingers to the bone…. I end up with bupkis. They end up with all the voot. ‘Plus you risk getting thrown in the slammer.’ ‘Oh, applesauce!'” And the book opens with a shockingly insensitive depiction of a black man’s lynching, for seemingly no other purpose than to feel justified in including “white supremacy” in the secondary title.

In all, Devil in the Basement is a portion of a fascinating story, very poorly told.

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Star Count 2.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 346 pages
Publisher Stroud House Publishing
Publish Date 2018-Mar-14
ISBN 9780996133531 Buy this Book
Issue April 2018
Category Historical Fiction


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