The Red Church is Scott Nicholson's first novel, and a valiant attempt at writing in a tricky genre. Horror novels create a challenge for authors; aside from containing monsters and bogeymen, they need to be believable. They need to be scary. They need to be unpredictable. They need to contain characters you care about. They need to contain characters or creatures you hate and fear. Unfortunately, The Red Church contains little of any of the above.
On perhaps the only positive note, the writing and description are very well-crafted (making me wonder if Nicholson ought not to be writing mysteries or literary works). But The Red Church is slow moving. More than 270 pages pass before the story suspense even begins to build. A good deal of the book deals with the past, and Nicholson puts more into those chunks of fictitious history than to the story at hand.
The premise of the book is intriguing. Unfortunately, it is not carried out well. It is the 1800's and a cult thrives in a small backwoods town. The preacher, Wendell McFall, ends up taking things too far and performs a human sacrifice. The townspeople hang the preacher in the belfry. More than a century later, Archer McFall, an ancestor of the crazy old preacher arrives in town and buys back the old red church and its cemetery. McFall considers himself the Second Son of Temple of the Two Sons. His first order of business? To make those responsible for the death of his ancestor pay for their sins in blood. The second order of business? To undue all that Jesus Christ has done.
Though the writing style is almost poetic, the story moves at a turtle's pace, with cardboard characters and unbelievable situations. There is the presence of other authors in Nicholson's writing. Some might catch a whiff of Salem's Lot, or taste the haunts of Ghost Story. But in the end, there is no comparison. Nicholson has talent, but not as a horror writer.