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Victor LaValle Talks About Horror and ‘Lone Women’

The Book Review

31-03-2023 • 34 mins

After a spate of more or less contemporary horror novels set in and around New York, Victor LaValle’s latest book, “Lone Women,” opens in 1915 as its heroine, Adelaide Henry, is burning down her family’s Southern California farmhouse with her dead parents inside, then follows her to Montana, where she moves to become a homesteader with a mysteriously locked steamer trunk in tow.

“Nothing in this genre-melding book is as it seems,” Chanelle Benz writes in her review. “The combination of LaValle’s agile prose, the velocity of the narrative and the pleasure of upended expectations makes this book almost impossible to put down.”

LaValle visits the podcast this week to discuss “Lone Women,” and tells the host Gilbert Cruz that writing the novel required putting himself into a Western state of mind.

“There was the Cormac McCarthy kind of writing, which is more Southern," he says, “but certainly has that feeling of the mythic and the grand. But I also got into writers like Joan Didion and Wallace Stegner, even though that’s California: the feeling of the grand but also spare nature of the prose. So it was less about reading, say, the old Western writers — well, they were Western writers but not writing westerns, if that makes sense. And then, if I’m honest, I also was very steeped in, my uncle used to make me watch John Wayne films with him when I was a kid. And so I felt like that was another kind of well that I was dipping into, in part for what I might do but also what I might not do.”

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