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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: The Final Reconciliation

3rd Feb, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Released in 2018, Todd Keisling's novella The Final Reconciliation (Crystal Lake Publishing pb) tells the story of doomed rock band The Yellow Kings, as related to documentary producer Miles Hargrove by the only surviving member of the group, lead guitarist Aidan Cross, now residing in a mental institution.

Thirty years ago the Kings were an up and coming band, with the ink still fresh on their recording contract and an EP to promote through touring. While on tour the band hooked up with the charismatic Camilla Bierce, with singer and front man Johnny totally beguiled, to the point that he has her accompany them on the rest of the tour. Independently wealthy and steeped in occult lore, Camilla talks about the Yellow King and a place called Carcosa, her name for Los Angeles. She inspires Johnny and the others to produce a concept album titled The Final Reconciliation, and arranges a pre-release performance of the album to a select audience, ostensibly as a promotional gimmick.

This is of course a story that relies heavily on the mythology created in Robert W. Chambers' masterpiece 'The King in Yellow', with references throughout and a plot that embraces cosmic horror. Keisling is excellent at capturing the allure of music, the trials and tribulations of rock star life. The four members of The Yellow Kings are brilliantly drawn, friends first and foremost but each with their own foibles and desires for the group, resulting in the inevitable quarrels and artistic differences. Camilla is the wild card who accelerates this process of discord, a muse with an agenda of her own and no real regard for the musicians she uses to achieve her aim, seeing them simply as means to her end. She is a truly frightening figure, someone who is capable of absolutely anything, with hints given of her inhuman nature, effects heightened by the artwork and stage trappings with which she furnishes her life. The sense of wrongness mounts steadily as the story progresses, with dreams foreshadowing what is to come, the idea of everyone wearing a mask to hide their true and monstrous natures. It all culminates on the night of the concert, with Camilla's mask torn away and her plan for the Yellow Kings coming to fruition, though even after this fiery finale the author has yet another trick up his sleeve.

Keisling has taken Chambers' ideas, focusing on their timeless quality and quintessential weirdness, while giving the material a thoroughly modern makeover courtesy of the medium of rock and roll. Filled with small touches that the insider will pick up on, and yet accessible to those not familiar with the original work, The Final Reconciliation is a worthy addition to the greater mythos from which it is derived and a story that has many pleasures to offer its readers.




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