In an increasingly self-service world, full-service benefits can come at a steep price. Nowhere is that price more steep than in Bentley Little’s newest novel, “The Bank” (Cemetery Dance Publications).
Capitalizing on trends for financial institutions to ask more and more of their customers, veteran horror writer Little offers an enthralling satire about personal banking run amok. How amok is truly terrifying, but not unexpected from Little’s literary canon of two-word titles, “The Handyman” and “The Consultant” among his more recent entries.
Like those previous works, and the more than two dozen he has penned since 1990’s Bram Stoker Award-winner “The Revelation,” “The Bank” is a driven narrative with the most engaging set of characters you’ll find south of Castle Rock — the mayor of which also happens to be a Bentley Little fan, offering a cover blurb denoting the author as “The horror poet laureate.”
If that’s high praise from the likes of Stephen King, it’s because it’s deserved. In “The Bank,” Little stops today’s trends of smart-phone banking, virtual mortgages and cash at the register on a dime, and if there is much to be said against The First People’s Bank, it cannot be said that the institution doesn’t offer highly personalized service.
Texts and emails about accounts to cover your secret gambling losses, the offer of a car loan brought not only to your work but after a bank employee has trashed your current ride, a mortgage that comes with a locked, tap-tap-tapping, room for a young couple who has been refused everywhere else in town are some of the more tame examples.
But as the body count rises, and The First People’s Bank begins to take over nearly every business in Montgomery, Ariz., townspeople learn the hard way to read the small print. Just uttering the desire to close your account can make you liable for breach of contract and result in turning over your car keys to a bank officer.
Although Little builds for us an ensemble cast in this novel, there are notable heroes willing to take on the rising evil. Bookstore owner Kyle Decker and his son, Nick, are among the first to note the bank’s inherent depravity, and among the last to drink the Kool-Aid-array of gifts the institution offers for opening the most minuscule of accounts.
Perhaps this is because The First People’s Bank arises overnight initially next to Kyle’s shop, but there is more depth to these characters than that. There is human fallibility in them, for sure, but there is also a nobility and a desire to make right what is wrong that hearkens to the best of Stephen King’s early works. Think Susan Norton and Ben Mears and you’re on the right track.
Because Little eschews publicity and rarely grants author interviews, it’s possible you’ll not hear much about the author’s backlist or even this book. But for any horror aficionado, such a scenario should be terrifying. Little is among the best in the genre today, and with this novel as surety, you can take that to the bank.