Blog tour time! This time, we’re taking a look at L. Andrew Cooper’s new title, Burning the Middle Ground. Because we all know how much I love creepy stories in a small-town Americana setting.
Burning the Middle Ground is a dark fantasy about small-town America that transforms readers’ fears about the country’s direction into a haunting tale of religious conspiracy and supernatural mind control. A character-driven sensibility like Stephen King’s and a flair for the bizarre like Bentley Little’s delivers as much appeal for dedicated fans of fantasy and horror as for mainstream readers looking for an exciting ride. Brian McCullough comes home from school and discovers that his ten-year-old sister Fran has murdered their parents. Five years later, a journalist, Ronald Glassner, finds Brian living at the same house in the small town of Kenning, Georgia. Planning a book on the McCullough Tragedy, Ronald stumbles into a struggle between Kenning’s First Church, run by the mysterious Reverend Michael Cox, and the New Church, run by the rebellious Jeanne Harper. At the same time, Kenning’s pets go berserk, and dead bodies, with the eyes and tongues removed from their heads, begin to appear.
The windshield wiper on the driver’s side kept sticking to the glass, making a sound that compounded the obnoxiousness of
Stefanie’s prattling. “And you know what else?” Stef said.
Melanie kept her eyes on the road. If her twelve-year-old sister kept insisting on distracting her, they would crash. The
drive home was taking forever. Rain had started trickling again while she was waiting for Stef in the middle school parking lot,
and now it was torrential, adding to the tiny lakes that made Melanie slow down to avoid hydroplaning. “No, what else,”
“Rebecca says her family’s going to come to the revival this Sunday, too, even though they usually go to a whole different
church. That’s, like, five different people I know who are coming to our church instead of their own this Sunday!”
“Yay,” Melanie said.
“And really, Mel, I know Dad is making you go but I still think that you helping out is just such the right thing for you to do. I
mean, really! It’s totally the place to be this Sunday. I mean, I know you’re friends with that what’s-her-name Harper lady who is
putting together that weird New Church that everybody keeps talking about like it’s some kind of cult or something, but I swear
you won’t regret being a part of this thing! Everybody, I mean everybody, is going to be there, and we’re going to sing songs and
the Young Evangelists are really going to be an important part of everything. Oh my gosh, did I even tell you? Bobby and some of his
friends at the high school are in a band! It’s a Christian Rock thing, and they’re going to play in the tent on Monday, and it’s
going to be so awesome! You know Bobby, right?”
Melanie knew Bobby Sutton. He had dropped his Algebra book in front of her so he could bend down and look up her skirt.
“Christian Rock is awesome,” she said. She couldn’t help the sarcasm. Stef’s sudden interest in all things holy seemed
misguided and pathetic, but then again, what pre-teen’s interests weren’t misguided and pathetic? She looked at her sister. “So
what’s the name of Bobby’s band?”
“Oh my gosh, you’ll never believe it, they’re called Faith Healer, which is, like, so cool, because it’s like they heal by faith
and heal people’s faith all in one! Oh my gosh, there’s Bobby now!”
Melanie’s head turned back toward the road, and her foot slammed the brakes. A group of kids, ranging in age from
Stefanie’s to her own, was crossing the street. She stopped only a few feet from them. They seemed to be coming from a white van
parked on the side of the road. Melanie put both hands on her car horn and pressed.
“That’s so rude! Stop it!” Stef said. Melanie stopped, still stunned by the near-accident. “Can I go with them?”
“What? No!” The kids in the street took slow, deliberate steps through the rain. Melanie counted eight. Bobby and another boy
walked in front, and two rows of three walked behind. The formation seemed to march.
“Oh, come on! It’s the Young Evangelists! Mom and Dad won’t mind. They’re probably on their way to church, and I’ll be going
there anyway tonight. It’ll save you from having to drive me!”
“Simmer down!” Melanie sounded like their mother. “You’ll get soaking wet in three seconds. You’re staying in this car.” For
emphasis, Melanie pressed the button for the electric locks.
Bobby and the other group leader were almost to the other side of the street when all eight of them stopped. Bobby turned, made
eye contact with Melanie, and pointed at her. Melanie remembered Invasion of the Body Snatchers and expected the boy to drop his
jaw and sound a weird, alien alarm. Melanie put her hand on her sister’s shoulder and said, “You’d better listen to me and stay right
“But why? You’re not being fair!” Stefanie whined.
Channeling Mom again, Melanie said, “Because I said so.” She was too busy monitoring the group in front of her car to observe
her sister’s reaction. The cluster behind Bobby didn’t turn in unison to stare at Melanie – which was a relief – but one by one,
they did turn to face her car. Bobby took a step toward them, and Melanie put her hand on the gear shift. “What are they doing?”
“They see me! They want me to come with them!”
Stefanie’s words roused a chill. When the other kids started to move, her grip on the gear shift tightened. “Don’t you dare open
that door,” Melanie said.
“But!” Bobby tapped on the passenger-side window.
“But nothing,” Melanie said.
Stefanie huffed. “Mel, you’re being a total bitch!” The abrupt shift in her sister’s vocabulary almost made Melanie smile, but the tapping at her window cut the good feelings short. A girl she didn’t recognize stood beside her car, beckoning.
“What the hell do they want?” Melanie whispered.
“I told you! They want me to go with them! Come on, please?”
Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.
Melanie looked around. With the same deliberate pace, two kids walked toward the back of her car. The group of eight was
forming a circle, surrounding them. “No way,” Melanie said.
The hand on the gear shift yanked it into reverse, and Melanie’s foot mashed the accelerator. Tires squealed on wet road.
The kids surrounding them jumped back, looking, for a moment, startled and animate. Looking, for a moment, human.
Melanie berated herself for her overactive imagination as she made a three-point turn. They would have to find another way to
L. Andrew Cooper thinks the smartest people like horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. Early in life, he couldn’t handle the scary stuff–he’d sneak and watch horror films and then keep his parents up all night with his nightmares. In the third grade, he finally convinced his parents to let him read grownup horror novels: he started with Stephen King’s Firestarter, and by grade five, he was doing book reports on The Stand.
When his parents weren’t being kept up late by his nightmares, they worried that his fascination with horror fiction would keep him from experiencing more respectable culture. That all changed when he transitioned from his public high school in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia to uber-respectable Harvard University, where he studied English Literature. From there, he went on to get a Ph.D. in English from Princeton, turning his longstanding engagement with horror into a dissertation. The dissertation became the basis for his first book, Gothic Realities (2010). More recently, his obsession with horror movies turned into a book about one of his favorite directors, Dario Argento (2012). He also co-edited the textbook Monsters (2012), an attempt to infect others with the idea that scary things are worth people’s serious attention.
After living in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California, Andrew now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches at the University of Louisville and chairs the board of the Louisville Film Society, the city’s premiere movie-buff institution. Burning the Middle Ground is his debut novel.
And don’t forget to get in on the amazing tour-wide giveaway HERE!