Title: The Influence
Author: Bentley Little
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Audiobook Narrator: Joe Barrett
Sometimes an author hits you right in the gut, and you’re forced to read more of what they wrote. That’s what happened to me with Bentley Little. After I finished The Haunted, I had to read more of what Little wrote because I found his writing style so captivating. His use of violence and sex out of nowhere felt like a slap in the face that I wanted to feel over and over again. Not only do I own a ton of his novels in the physical format, but Hoopla also has a number of his audiobooks available to borrow. I decided on The Influence for my second read, and I am pretty sure I enjoyed this one even more than The Haunted.
In The Influence, Ross is an out-of-work engineer that is starting to face some financial issues. Even though he’s helped his immediate family out in the past, they won’t extend the olive branch to help him through these tough times. All except for his cousin, Lita. She and her husband, David, live in the small farm community of Magdalena, and they invite Ross to come live in their guest house on the farm. Ross reluctantly agrees because, frankly, he has no other option, and makes the awkward move to a setting that is completely unfamiliar to him. Things go well until New Year’s Eve, when things start changing. Something is effecting the citizens of Magdalena, and whatever this something is might be powerful enough to leave the city broken.
The Influence is a slow burn. It spends a lot of time on the characters, one of which is the city of Magdalena itself. We get to know a lot of its citizens, and that’s what helps make the book so interesting. We see where the city starts, which makes the turn even more fascinating and impactful. Whatever it is that’s influencing these people is engaging as hell, and I was hooked on figuring out what was going on. Little does a great job – through both of his works that I’ve read so far – of keeping me hooked on the line, stringing the mystery out, then finally revealing just enough to keep me coming back for more.
The stark mix of in-your-face sexual encounters, and unexpected graphic violence is back in The Influence, and arguably goes even further with both of these here than in The Haunted. There were some genuinely disturbing moments present that I won’t soon forget, and these moments will definitely turn some readers off. I find that Little knows when to go to these extremes to create the atmosphere and effect that he’s looking for, and they do not feel gratuitous for the sake of shocking the reader, but fit the story being told.
Outside of the macabre, though, there are tiny moments in this book that are just creepy as hell. They can be as small as a sentence, but they’re so out of left field, or unexpected, that they really stick with me. Little does a fantastic job of creating a real world, and then turns it up to eleven. His language creates images in my head that are frightening, and stay with me long after the chapter ends. He can make the mundane scary, and I absolutely love it.
The audiobook is narrated by Joe Barrett. He does a good job of painting the images of Little’s words, but there are a couple of awkward moments in his narration that stand out. The delivery on some lines can seem odd, but out of a ten hour audiobook, there may be only about three or four moments like this, so it’s definitely not a big problem. Overall, Barrett does a nice job with his narration, and keeps the characters unique from one another so you can tell who’s talking before even hearing their name.
The Influence won’t be for everyone, but it sure was for me. It is dark, brutal, and better than the synopsis lead me to believe it would be. I love Little’s writing style, and his dedication to creating realistic, interesting characters that I genuinely care for. Frankly, if there is any downside to this novel, it would be that it isn’t long enough to let the ending play out a little more. I would have loved to see a bit more with the characters at the end, but what we get isn’t bad either. I really enjoyed The Influence, and I cannot wait to see what else Little has in store for me in the future.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.