A Winter Haunting By Dan Simons
Return to Elm Haven
Dale Stewart is running from his home as an adult. After losing his marriage after having an affair with a grad student, a sudden break up with the girl sends him off to research his next book in Dan Simmon's sequel to Summer Of Night; A Winter Haunting.
The town that Dale remembers as an eleven year old is there still there is some form as he pulls his Land Cruiser through the widened streets that were once pleasant country lanes where The Bike Patrol traveled during the summer months.
Remembering the iconic locations where Dale and his friends spent his last summer in the town as monsters of those recently deceased preyed upon unwilling victims, Dale can't help but wonder how much of what he thinks he remembers is actually true.
The fatal summer had left several members of the community dead, a school house burned to the ground, and unearthed a story about a evil talisman. Dale's friend, Duane was the scribe of The Bike Patrol, hoping to be a writer someday and took notes and interviews from the events of the summer. Sadly it had ended in Duane's death as he was torn apart by monsters, though the police played it off as an accident in a combine.
Moving into Duane's house now up for rent, Dale knows that the family members living there previous had not removed any of the belongings including Duane's many notebooks about the events.
Somewhere in there was the truth and it was the basis of Dale's new novel.
Duane sees his friend now changed, as a the man he was never allowed to be as his life had ended at age eleven. Duane was the smartest of the group and served as their scribe to take down notes about the events of the fatal summer. After his death, Dale had sneaked into the house and found some of the notebooks, but it was only now forty years later that Dale had the reason and courage to do the research.
Clare Two Hearts
It was a cliche as they come, young grad student and professor have a torrid afraid and fine temporary love. Dale felt things with Clare Two Hearts from the first moment that they toured her near her family home at the Blackfeet reservation. Dale knew that his marriage was failing, his children although having a close relationship, were starting to pull away.
Dale needed this.
The way Clare Two Hearts looked at the older man was finally the gaze of a woman and he missed that about his marriage. He felt alive and he took to the young woman like a moth to a flame.
It was short lived, as it always was in those situations.
Because of Clare he had lost his home and was living at a ranch that he had leased for sometime but then too even Clare had a change of plans.
She was a young woman after all and needed to be around people that understood her. She needed to find men her own age.
Dale was devastated as Clare began to date someone else and it sent him into a depression worse than anything he had faced before. Against the advice of his doctor he planned to spend just short of a year writing in Duane's old house.
Being back in Elm Haven, Dale could finally resolve the mystery of his childhood and forget about Clare.
No sooner had he come back but Dale began to feel different about his choices. First a group of skinhead teenagers kept vandalizing his car, then the people from Dale's past began to show up.
Finding the old town bully, C.J. now as the deputy of police, Dale felt no safety in reporting the strange events that were taking place in Duane's old house since opening up the top floor that had been sealed off since the 1960's. Suddenly a computer not connected to the phone line began to receive creepy emails, and five strange black dogs began to patrol the farm.
Thanksgiving Or Christmas
Michelle Staffney had gotten away from Elm Haven years after the events of the first book to California. Finding that life never got any better for sunny redhead, she regretted her treatment by producers when she had tried to be an actress. Finding only sexual harassment in her wake, after the death of her parents, Michelle decided to come back home with her tail between her legs.
Finding that Dale was back in town, she began to visit and ask him about the return to Elm Haven and the research of his book. Michelle was very interested in the notebooks left behind and what Dale thought had happened in those days previous.
After two holiday meals with Michelle, Dale gets a strange call from his kids wondering why he never returned home for the holidays, making Dale question why time seemed to move slower in Elm Haven, as it should hardly be Thanksgiving let alone Christmas Eve.
Michelle has heard of the email messages, now Dale proving that they are being sent from Duane, whom keeps quoting books on ancient religion to scare Dale, as well as she had been chased by the hell hounds haunting the grounds.
She calls Dale when the dogs have chased her into town and pinned her on top of a playground slide. Deputy C. J. also shows but he claims that he has seen no dogs, adding to the mystery but he offers to take Michelle home. Dale does instead, delivering her to the house she planned to restore but doesn't invite Dale inside.
Dale seems to ignore the pieces laid out from him in the notebooks. It wasn't until he began to see the monsters again, this time in the form of C.J's rotting corpse- that he begins to feel the same as he did as a child.
People That Are Not There
After Michelle has disappeared, Dale alerts the police.
He knows what he saw, the huge black dogs had torn Michelle apart and dragged her off into the woods. He had seen it with his own eyes.
The same eyes that saw the emails...and the rotting corpse of C.J.
He has learned to trust these eyes again since becoming an adult.
What he had seen the first time in Elm Haven had prompted the family to move back to Chicago when he was young.
The police only listened for a moment of Dale's tale imminently finding issues with his accuracy.
Showing a report from some ten years ago, Michelle and her lover had been killed in California. But that couldn't be correct, who had Dale dinned with on Thanksgiving? Was someone pretending to be Michelle Staffney?
The house where Dale had dropped her off was a derelict old frame with no hopes of ever being restored since the passing of Michelle's parents.
C.J had seen her too though.
Finding out about the passing of C.J., Dale was in a stupor. What were the ghosts of his past trying to say? Why were they all passing judgement on him?
The words from Duane struck the hardest.
What was Dale to remember?
Did it have anything to do with those horrible nightmares about the death of Clare Two Hearts and her new lover?
Duane Tried To Tell Him
Fearing what else would be shown to him as the nightmares about Clare worsened, Dale finally packed up and left town after the police had forced him to contact his psychologist. The receptionist, breaking the news that Dale's former doctor was also deceased, they set him up with an associate.
Climbing back into the Land Cruiser and driving from town, the ghosts keep swirling around the brain of Dale as he drives. That damned laptop, still not plugged into any source of internet declaring "You've Got Mail!" every so often on the drive, Dale careful reaches over the the passenger seat and types a response to the ghost of Duane as he drives back towards his fate.
A Winter Haunting is a much different book than its predecessor, and for that I am glad. I really enjoyed Summer Of Night as it was great psychological horror but this book just ramps everything that terrified you about the first book to eleven. Picture A Winter Haunting if you will as the adult section when the Loser Club returns to Derry in IT.
Brilliant in its closing of the circle by haunting a member of The Bike Patrol rather than Elm Haven itself, this book does a wonderful job of wrapping up any residual feelings from the first book.