In 1996 Owl Goingback released his debut novel, Crota, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t end up winning a Bram Stoker award with it.
And it’s for good reason.
The book is excellent. I’ll give you the quick synopsis and then my thoughts on the book.
Mutilated bodies begin showing up in a small Missouri community, and the local police chief finds himself investigating the grisly discoveries. At first he fears there may be a bear prowling the countryside, but after his own encounter he realizes that the beast responsible is something far more menacing that a bear. A local Indian confirms this and the chief soon finds himself in and underground pursuit and battling a prehistoric monster. Who wins? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
First and foremost, my favorite element of this book is the gore. The first kill in the book is soaked with blood, viscera, and spilled entrails and it doesn’t slow down from there. I love it when a book turns my stomach, and Crota certainly induced a bit of gurgling deep down in my digestive system. Owl Goingback is in good company, as the only two other authors I can think of that have had this effect on me are Stephen King and Jack Ketchum.
I also love stories that revolve around the small town Sheriff or Police Chief. In a job full of community picnics and the occasional shoplifting apprehension, it’s all fun and games until someone releases the prehistoric demon creature and your citizens start getting eaten. I’d like to see how Andy Taylor and Barney Fife would handle something like this.
Lastly, I love how Owl really draws on his Native American heritage in this book. Even though this is a work of fiction, I gained a lot of respect for Native American beliefs, especially how humans interact with nature and the sacred power of spirits that can positively or negatively impact those that believe in (or cross) them.
When the dust settles, what you’re left with in Crota is a gruesome little adventure, laced with plenty of supernatural elements. Once this thing gets rolling, it doesn’t stop, so there’s not much of a chance to breathe. That said, try to snag a paperback or digital copy of Crota before your next weekend road and/or beach trip—unless you’re going camping…near caves…then I’d leave this one in the car.