Contributed Photo / David Neil Lee
The Great Outer Dark, the last book in the trilogy.
David Neil Lee, a Wilfrid Laurier University creative writing professor on the Brantford campus and the author of The Midnight Games series, has finally finished his Hamilton Horror saga. This features the novels, The Midnight Games, The Medusa Deep and The Great Outer Dark.
“It’s like being cured of a minor ailment because it’s been bugging you for years. Finally, that’s done, thank God. It’s a big relief,” said the author jokingly when talking about this long writing journey.
The Midnight Games, initially released in 2015, follows the journey of main character Nate and his friends in post-industrial Hamilton as they discover something suspicious happening in the local football stadium, known as the Midnight Games. Nate knows something is not right about these mysterious games happening in his hometown. As he discovers more about the games and the people behind them, his life is overtaken by ancient texts, curses and the rituals of the Resurrection Church of the ancient gods.
Throughout the series, the main characters are taken on both a physical and emotional journey with a bittersweet ending for the reader. For Lee, ending the series was an emotional experience that still moves him to this day.
“I get choked up even talking about it now. I wanted it to end beautifully and, on a note, not necessarily optimism, but a note that sort of pointed outwards to a bigger potential,” he said.
The essence of the city of Hamilton is heavily present in these novels, perfectly capturing the grit and as Lee said, the nostalgia of the town.
“There’s not only an economic depression, but a kind of nostalgia among a lot of Hamiltonians. Certainly, working-class people who are scuffling to make a living, feeling nostalgic for a time when you could just get up, go to work at the plant every day and go home at five, make a good living and all that,” said Lee. “And I really appreciate that.”
Lee had never anticipated that he would write a horror novel, but when owner and publisher of literary press Wolsak and Wynn Noelle Allen put out a call for one written about Hamilton, Lee wanted to push himself and see if he could.
“As so many major projects begin, it was kind of a dare to myself. I thought, ‘Well, I’ve never written a horror novel before, but if Noelle wants one, damn it, I’ll give her one,’” said the author.
Seeing as this was Lee’s first deep dive into horror, he learned more about the genre.
“Horror is a little bit of a misunderstood genre. For me, it’s the story of young people who want to get out of the world and they want to find out what it offers,” said Lee. “And they find that it offers terrifying, scary and dangerous stuff. Of course, that’s what real life is like.”
These novels are a playful and raw journey about the nostalgia of steel town Hamilton and coping with changes all around, putting their faith in a higher power. But even further, these novels are perfect for the young adult age group because behind the curtain of horror and science fiction tropes, there is a bittersweet coming of age story. Readers see Nate through a journey of the supernatural, ancient curses and those crucial years of young adulthood when we are all finding our footing and figuring out what kind of person we want to be.