In the Shadow of St. Anthony
It is the summer of 1982. Besides his pizzeria job, Tommy Santalesa spends most of his time smoking pot, drinking Screwdrivers, and playing handball with his friends. He also has strikingly good looks, which he uses to hit on girls. Even though the nineteen-year-old performs horribly on bass guitar, Frank Balistrieri—his longtime friend—lets Tommy play in his band. But now that the band has been offered a contract, Tommy is certain that he’ll get canned. He needs to talk with Frank, but he seems to have mysteriously disappeared. After a bit of searching, Tommy finally catches up with Frank and is shocked to learn that his buddy has no pulse and that his girlfriend is none other than a witch.
First-time novelist Andrew Hernon crafts a creepy plot set within the confines of Lower Manhattan. Opening with an ominous scene, Hernon quickly shifts gears and takes readers into the sights and sounds pertinent to SoHo (i.e., the subway, people yelling out of windows, and music blasting). Keeping his story well balanced, Hernon presents a bit of a lighter view to SoHo, as opposed to the eeriness that accompanies the old printing district—streets west of 6th Street—at night. Yet, amid the rising of “creatures of the night,” a superstition the old-timer Italians strictly adhere to, Hernon takes the edge off his spine-chilling plot with brief references to radio icons of times past—Disco 92 WKTU and the rock station WPLJ, 92.3, and 95.5 respectively on the FM dial—and various popular rock bands of the 1980s.
Hernon’s third-person narrative is replete with a colorful cast that surrounds his main character, Tommy Santalesa. Regarded as a wiseass and a pothead, Hernon slowly but significantly portrays the culinary side of Tommy—another literary tool to keep his plot interesting. Indeed, the supposed loser has talent, but he just doesn’t know it yet. While lacing his original ghost story with gore—and there is plenty of that, Hernon is also developing his small and tightly-knit cast, many of whom are designated as foiled characters to point Tommy in a better life direction. Good examples are Anne-Marie, Doc Myers, and Cynthia.
On the sinister side of things, Hernon weaves his elusive, as well as diabolical, characters—such as Lucchese, Squid, and Aurora—within a ghostly story of one woman’s demise caught in a spell cast by a priest. Combining all of the above-mentioned elements, Hernon divides his debut novel into three parts and then alternates character scenes within chapters. Hernon’s plot is filled with constant twists and turns and un-clichéd scenes. And, while there is no doubt that locals, as well as horror and phantasmal aficionados, will love this new addition to Manhattan ghost stories, In the Shadow of St. Anthony is one of those stories that would be great on the silver screen.
Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.
|Page Count||185 pages|
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