Book Review – Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980) by Michael McDowell

Cold Moon Over Babylon

Cover art for the 2014 reprint by Mike Mignola

Here at Jordan and Eddie we like to delve into all aspects of film including literary projects by film-makers. In doing book reviews we look to review those books either about films, by film-makers/actors or books that have been adapted either into a past or future film project. Happy reading!

Cold Moon Over Babylon

Written by Michael McDowell

Published in 1980 Mass Market Paperback, republished 2014 by Valancourt Books

Review by Jordan

Cold Moon Over Babylon stands tall in the pantheon of Southern horror paperbacks, silhouetted by a vivid moon and surrounded by imposing pines. It creeps, shocks and hits hard on its own merits, showcasing the sleepy town of Babylon and its enigmatic locals, but also invites reading for it’s author not renowned for his novels but rather his contributions to films, in particular collaborations with Tim Burton.

Writing the screenplays for Beetlejuice (1988) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) gave him exposure (and terrific works they are) but this thrilling story, his second published after The Amulet in 1979, shows where his true talent lied.

The prologue takes us to a hot July in 1965, where Jim and JoAnne Larkin are idly paddling on the Styx River by their blueberry farm, before noticing a crocker sack strangely bobbling in the calm water. This seemingly innocuous discovery is then the instigator of a terrible tragedy that haunts the Larkin family years on, hampering their once prosperous business and tarnishing their reputation in a town where if people don’t like or know you then you may as well be dead.

Time passes, and shy fourteen-year-old Margaret Larkin is within eyesight of where years earlier she lost her parents, heading to cross the bridge and make it home before the pouring rain gets much worse. Here, her life is taken in a sudden and shocking act. Her grandmother, overcome with despair once more, is certain she knows the murderer, but soon realises that some people are beyond the reach of the law, and more evil than she or anyone could imagine…

Cold Moon Over Babylon is captivating at once as a mystery, devastating though it may be, before it then draws on supernatural elements as vengeance is sought from beyond the grave. Sadness screams from the pages and demands posthumous justice, and the secrets revealed become increasingly unsettling. This is pulp fiction, not intended to be appreciated for it’s plotting, and perhaps not intended to be as good as it is: very, very good.

A film adaptation is currently in the works, directed by Griff Furst and starring Christopher Lloyd, Candy Clark and Josh Stewart. Some of the imagery imagined though, particularly that prologue and the stressful, bloody denouement, can be so fully formed in the readers mind that you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to experience this first.

4.5 snakes out of 5

Cold Moon over Babylon - Michael McDowell - Avon Books - Feb 1980

4 responses to “Book Review – Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980) by Michael McDowell

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