You’ve got to give Keith Deininger credit. He doesn’t rehash old similar themes in his work. Instead, he experiments and takes chances with narratives. I just finished one of his more recent novels called Within. At face value, this is a story about a haunted mansion, which we’ve all seen often enough. Someone new comes into town and purchases the crumbling mansion in a seedier part of town. Soon, those who are invited to visit one of the many parties thrown by the owner become possessed by the inner workings of the house’s evil presence. Indeed, the entire town falls under his spell. The malevolent antics of Mr. Klimt and his eerie mansion result in numerous character disappearances, terrifying hallucinations and dreams of our protagonists, and increased aggression and debauchery of townsfolk. I was reminded of two haunted mansion novels: the classic Ghost Story by Peter Straub (especially the impact on the town), and the most recent Slade House by David Mitchell. I felt Deininger’s Within ranked right up there with these two. However, that wasn’t the biggest unique surprise. The portrayal of Mr. Klimt, the owner of the mansion and the perpetrator of evil who throws lavish parties to entice the unwitting into his snare, is remarkably similar to Jay Gatsby. Many of the party scenes paralleled the festivities on West Egg. This was the first time I’ve ever seen the setting and characters of The Great Gatsby influence the plot of a horror novel. Keith Deininger has guts to try – and he pulled it off.
Anthony Hains is a horror & speculative fiction writer.