Sunday, March 18, 2018

"The Hunger"

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, she had a long career in intelligence, working for several US agencies and a think tank. She currently is a consultant on emerging technologies.

Katsu applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Hunger, and reported the following:
The Hunger, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist, is told from multiple POVs. Necessary, because there were a lot of people involved in that original tragedy (and they share the blame, too, for what happened) but because of this, it’s hard for any excerpt to be representative of the entire book. Page 69 does give a nice window into what you can expect. This chapter is from the POV of James Reed, an Irish immigrant and self-made man who becomes the de facto leader of the wagon party when George Donner cracks under pressure. In real life, James Reed was not well-liked; the working-class families that largely made up the party thought him arrogant and condescending. The James Reed in my novel is that, too, but he also harbors a secret that drives his self-destructive tendencies.

Here, Reed is worrying that the wagon party is falling behind schedule, and that his fellow travelers don’t seem concerned about their dwindling supplies. In the midst of his ruminations, two boys crawl out from under a wagon, puking up liquor and when he tries to find out where the boys got it, he draws an unwelcome crowd:
“You ain’t the boys’ father.” This from another of the Donners’ men, Samuel Shoemaker.

“Their father’s probably lying facedown in a ditch himself.” The words came out before Reed could stop himself. He cursed his sharp tongue. He could imagine how he must sound to this crowd, many of them hungover themselves from dancing half the night away. His palms started to tingle. He could feel dirt gathering in his eardrums, in his nostrils, beneath his fingernails. He needed to bathe. “Look, I’m only trying to find out where the boys got the alcohol.”

“Are you saying it’s our fault the boys got themselves drunk?” Elliott said, raising an eyebrow.

“No. I’m just saying we must do a better job keeping track of all our supplies.” He shook his head. He would try again. “We might want to lock up our spirits, for example—”

Tall and angular, always hovering like an ominous scarecrow, Lewis Keseberg pushed his way through the crowd. Reed could’ve predicted it: Keseberg always seemed to be spoiling for a fight. “You’d like to take our liquor away, wouldn’t you? You’d probably chuck it in the Little Sandy when nobody was looking, every drop of it.” He jabbed a finger into Reed’s chest. “If you try to lay so much as one finger on any of my bottles, so help me God—”
If you know the story of the Donner Party, the appearance of Lewis Keseberg should send shivers down your spine. By the way, even if you’re familiar with the Donner Party, I think you’ll find The Hunger will still surprise you. It definitely looks at the famous tragedy in a new light.
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue