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A Love Letter To THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones

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A love letter is usually addressed to the person or thing it concerns, but I am on a mission here, and “usual” does not serve my purpose. My mission: to make YOU understand how absolutely amazing this book is, and how a single book can open a world to a whole genre.

cover image of The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

See, I am not a horror person. In fact, before last year, horror was not a genre I usually read, or cared about at all. But there’s a redaction here: I am was not a horror person. That was before I read The Only Good Indians for the first time last year, after I heard some buzz about it on social media.

I’m easily scared. As someone who grew up in an environment where the paranormal isn’t a question, but a certainty, and stories about encounters with evil spirits abound, it is no surprise that I try to stay away from things that give me the heebie jeebies. But after picking up Stephen King’s The Shining and leaving unscathed — I was more afraid of being afraid than I was actually afraid, which made the book a bit of a disappointment — I started to wonder why a horror book adapted as a movie that terrifies me just to think about it (reader, I saw a few scenes and that was enough to give me nightmares for days) was pretty much “meh” in providing the spooky I was searching for.

The answer as to why this happens is probably simple: I don’t see clear images in my mind when I read. My brain isn’t completely devoid of images when I picture a scene, but they’re not vivid enough for me to be able to imagine what is on the page in great detail. Sometimes when someone describes a room, my mind already made up a grey area that could be a room, so for the author to continue to describe colours and shapes is mostly lost on me. Maybe this is why I dislike highly descriptive stories, since they feel like a waste of time. Add this to the fact that books don’t come with their own score, and it turns out reading horror is to me like a walk in a well-illuminated, filled with people, park.

Of course, for someone who, for once in her life, was looking forward to being scared, this was not good news, and after reading a few more supposedly scary books with no change, I was about to accept that I was going to continue to be disappointed by horror, so why even try. And then, The Only Good Indians happened.

Now, let me get this out of the way already: did it scare me? No. I am still in search of a horror book that has, but suddenly it changed the way I approach horror and what I’m looking for in it.

Let me give you some book context. The premise of The Only Good Indians is simple: four friends did something terrible ten years ago, and now the past is returning to catch up with them. I’m always down for a “revenge is best served cold” narrative, the whole atmosphere the book creates is eerie and somber, and the execution of the premise is *chef’s kiss*. But there is one single detail that just knocked my socks off.

I’ve talked with several people about this book, and everyone is amazed by the same thing: it starts slow, but it gets from 0 to 100 faster than a Porsche 919 Hybrid.

At first, I wasn’t even sure where the story was going, but I was expecting a slow development, or at least a continuous pace. But no; it starts pretty harmless — shit IS going down, but it seems to be building up from pretty normal events to events that are a bit complicated — and them BAM! The story takes a quick unexpected turn straight into the world of “wow, now I see why everyone says this book is gory. Did I read that right?” and then you read it again and yes, you read that right. It takes your trust in the one character the story is focusing on, and then drives off with you hanging on for dear life. Honestly, it’s genius.

photo of a guy gesturing with an unhinged expression on his face. Behind him there is a wall filled with sheets of paper, photos and a red string connecting points together.
Me, talking about The Only Good Indians

I think about this book pretty often, and I mostly think about the ways it has opened a door for me to walk into horror. It made me understand that horror doesn’t have to be scary to be good. Because scary doesn’t always mean terrifying, and in the end, terrifying can be a lot scarier than your usual paranormal encounter.

This year I’ve read pretty good horror stories – including Jones’ new one, My Heart Is A Chainsaw, which on top of having the coolest title, is absolutely bananas – and I can now say it is one of my favourite genres. It’s amazing how horror can make you wonder, and speculate, about the deranged ways people go about life. How it shows you the worst of being human, while at the same time not really stretching completely out of the bounds of possibility. And even when it deals with what we deem impossible, it can still play with our moral compass.

Of course, I’m still being disappointed with horror stories, but that’s intrinsic to every genre. Enjoying a horror book doesn’t depend anymore on how much the story scares me, but how much it makes an impression on me, and how much it entertains me. The more I look like the guy in the image above talking about a horror book, the better.

Reading The Only Good Indians has set the bar very high, while at the same time giving me a greater insight into the genre, and how amazing it can be in all its forms.

Now, I cannot leave this article without an actual love letter to The Only Good Indians, so here it goes:

Dear The Only Good Indians (or, should I say, Deer, hahaha),

I think about you about at least once a week, sometimes more.

Thank you for being one of my favourite books out there, for introducing me to the possibilities of horror, and for making me sound absolutely unhinged when I talk about you to other people.

It’s okay you have ruined ceiling fans for me. Staying cool is overrated, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

with love,


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