Blood on Satan’s Claw

21st Century
This edition printed in:

On an orange, spider-patterned background, a tortie sits with a squash and a red book. Sweetly, she looks up at the sky.

Fall Festivals

Tonight, we’re heading to one of our little town’s magical fall festivals. This one features a lantern parade in the fall darkness, and lights on the river. It makes me think back to when my lovely spouse and I put in many, many hours into playing Harvest Moon 64. Now it feels like our lives have become a version of that. The village is small and vibrant and comes alive with its many seasonal festivals. There’s always local produce growing and being sold at local markets. I can reliably look forward to being snowed in when winter comes, and having fall foliage that I see in calendar images. Now that the pandemic is over, and we can attend all of the festivals again, I find that I’m enjoying them even more as we become part of the community.

A too-close cat obscures the cover of a red book.

So, I guess it’s apt that at our wedding and at our upcoming vow renewal we’re including elements of the natural world. The forest. The trees. A nod to the blue bird of happiness. When I step back, it’s amazing how we’ve gotten to this place from the city a few years ago and from even further afield before that. It’s taken some time, but I finally feel like we’ve found the life we want and the place we want to live it in.

Fall festivals feel like home and being grateful for that home.

A red book with a lot of text and a woodcut drawing of a skull and oblong hand sit on a background.

Don’t Let the Year Fool You

This book may have been published just last year, but the writer, Robert Wynne-Simmons, is actually the screenwriter for the 1971 British horror film of the same name. So this book is a novelization of a movie that is over fifty years old. The plot is simple. Strange remains are plowed up in a disused field and as a result the village descends into chaos as the local children start growing skin for Satan on their own bodies. There’s a witch hunter from London, there’s a country squire that is one of the few people in the town gifted with common sense, and there’s a farm hand that loses it all. And of course, there are more than a few creepy children.

It’s definitely a Halloween read if I’ve ever come across one. My only regret is that the film is a bit hard to get ahold of outside of obscure streaming services. However, I have put it on my watch list and will look forward to the day when I can watch it and compare with the long-awaited novel version.

A cat pushes away a red book. The text on the book's cover reads: Blood on Satan's Claw or The Devil's Skin — a most sensational account of Devilry that took root in the village of Chapel Folding.

Witch Hunts and Narrative Structures

If you like spooky reads, you’ve probably read more than one “witch hunt” narrative and are thusly familiar with their structure. It’s easy to compare Blood on Satan’s Claw to some of the classics — for example Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. However, it’s important to note that while this book is entertaining, it is not literature and for the most part is best enjoyed a face-value read. Meaning it’s a good yarn without a deeper meaning. Another crucial difference is that the witch hunt features real witches and not delusions or misogyny.

But it is interesting to analyze the structure of Blood on Satan’s Claw and compare it to films featuring witch hunts, plagues, and possessions. You can trace the arc of discovery, initial infestation, spread of infestation, near total destruction, arrival of exterminator/exorcist, and final resolution.

Blood on Satan's Claw by Robert Wynne-Simmons is a red book with illustrations by Richard Wells.

That being said, I will say that the comparison is particularly powerful because the author is clearly a screenwriter in style. There are moments of telling instead of showing and the prose can be frustratingly simple and sparse at times. Most notably, the conclusion is a bit skimpy. It’s unclear what happens to the village and most of the characters as the threat comes under control. The action just stops, which works better in a film than it does in a novel like this.

A calico tabby noodles on an orange spider-patterned background with a little yellow-orange squash and a red book.

A Note on the Edition

It’s clear that a lot of love went into making this book beautiful. The novel is published by Unbound and is a lovely little hardcover that has beautiful end papers and a bright red ribbon bookmark. The typeface is big, but the size of the book and the margins means it’s comfortable instead of unwieldly. There are also some great illustrations by Richard Wells, who’s put a lot of effort into mimicking the style of a medieval woodcut. It was partially the edition that sold me on trying this novel. I could just imagine the photographs and the place it could occupy on my shelves. Next to my other spooky books and the ceramic skull.

A tabby cat with a brown nose and big ears site beside a red book: Blood on Satan's Claw.

Blood on Satan’s Claw is actually crowdfunded and there’s something very magical about a bunch of readers coming together and making a book happen. You can usually tell those books on the shelf, because there’s something about them that broadcasts the extra care and time that’s gone into them.

A red book — Blood on Satan's Claw — sits on an orange spider-patterned background with a small yellow squash with orange stripes.

Rain or Shine

It is raining today, but we’re not going to let that stop us! I used to avoid going outside when I was younger, but my lovely spouse loves the rain. So we’ve been hiking, biking, and doing everything we normally do for weekly exercise even in the dampest of weather. I’ve developed a taste for seeing the differences in the landscape and the wildlife during a downpour, so seeing a parade in the rain is an interesting prospect. I also love the smell of the earth and the chill of the air during a fall evening drizzle as the theatres are letting out and the restaurants are closing.

That being said, I still take the necessary cover for thunderstorms, snowstorms, and extreme weather.

A perturbed tortie looks away from a red book — Blood on Satan's Claw by Robert Wynne-Simmons.

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