The Store by Bentley Little

Posted October 23, 2017 by michaelhicks in Reviews / 0 Comments

The Store by Bentley LittleThe Store by Bentley Little
Narrator: David Stifel
Published by Self Published / Indie on 10 August 2017
Length: 14 hrs and 55 mins
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Rating Report
Story (Plot)
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Production Quality
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Attention Holding
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Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

In a small Arizona town, a man counts his blessings: a loving wife, two teenage daughters, and a job that allows him to work at home. Then "The Store" announces plans to open a local outlet, which will surely finish off the small downtown shops. His concerns grow when "The Store's" builders ignore all the town's zoning laws during its construction. Then dead animals are found on "The Store's" grounds. Inside, customers are hounded by obnoxious sales people, and strange products appear on the shelves. Before long the town's remaining small shop owners disappear, and "The Store" spreads its influence to the city council and the police force, taking over the town! It's up to one man to confront "The Store's" mysterious owner and to save his community, his family, and his life!

©1998, 2017 Bentley Little (P)2017 Journalstone Publishing

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In the very late 1990s/early 2000s, I worked at a local big-box retail store for several years while attending college. Employees had to attend pointless, monthly bull sessions, apparently to remind us on a regular basis of how awesome this particular retail chain was and why it should be oh so meaningful to us meagerly paid employees. At one point, my department manager notified me that the higher-ups were preparing to fire me because I was putting in too many hours at school and not enough on the sales floor, trying to con customers into up-selling their CD purchases with overpriced protection plans. If I hadn’t already mentally checked out on that loathsome job, threatening to fire me for going to school was certainly the clincher.

Maybe it’s because of those years of personal dissatisfaction busting my hump for The Man that I was so able to completely relate to Bentley Little’s The Store. I dug the heck out of this book, and nearly all of it was totally on-point for me.

The small town of Juniper, Arizona is about to receive its first high-end, discount retail store – think Walmart and you’d be on the right track. While jogging past the soon-to-be-demolished, and once protected, land, Bill notices dead animals on the lot. (As one character states later, “The Store is built on blood!”) To say that’s merely the beginning of The Store’s impact on Juniper is to woefully undersell this retailer’s impact. Soon enough, the town’s small business owners are in a fight not just for their livelihoods, but for their very lives. The Store sweeps over Juniper like locusts, destroying everything – and everyone – in its path. And that’s just for starters!

The Store is very much a work of social horror, and it has an important message at its core regarding the nature of consumerism and capitalism and highly powerful and influential corporatism versus government. While there are supernatural elements at play throughout, the most frightening aspects of the story are the ones that are absolutely real. It’s positively sinister to watch how The Store corrupts Juniper and its inhabitants, its many various tentacles reaching into the community to sow both paranoia and complicity. The cult-like nature of The Store’s employees, the manager’s fervent dedication to the retail outlet, and the bullying nature of a mega-wealthy retail giant and its corporate lobbying against a small-town local government are all disquietingly familiar. Although some of these horrors operate on a metaphorical level, they still resound a little too close for comfort.

Despite some scenes of violence and one unsettling and graphic sex scene, The Store is a work of quiet horror, and Little ensnares readers with a heavy, dark atmosphere and a highly unsettling tone exacerbated by small-town politics and plenty of personal conflicts. David Stifel excels at narrating Little’s writing, luring listeners in with his friendly, relatable tone, even as a sense of creeping dread mounts. He has a quiet approach that works perfectly in tandem with the material he is reading, giving the listening experience a personable intimacy. As a combined force, Little and Stifel certainly sank their hooks in deep for me, and I was appropriately wowed by both.

The Store was my first experience with Bentley Little’s work, and while it’s not entirely perfect (although I found it to be a little too long, I wish a bit more focus had been paid on fleshing out some of the supernatural elements) it was certainly highly satisfying. Little is now an author whose work I’ll be checking out more of in the future.

About David Stifel

Read the ABR Narrator Interview

Bitten early by the acting bug, I studied the craft of acting at the Yale School of Drama. After graduation, I took the usual array of interesting day jobs such as casino porter at Lake Tahoe, ESL teacher in Iran and Egypt (one year apiece), video games programmer in the Atari / Intellivision era.

While working as a computer programmer, starting about 1995, I also worked in many film and TV projects for such directors as Steven Spielberg (Minority Report – the guy with empty eyeball sockets), Danny Boyle (A Life Less Ordinary – the guy who barked), and Joel Schumacher (The Number 23 – creepy flophouse desk clerk).

About Bentley Little

Bentley Little is an American author of numerous horror novels. He was discovered by Dean Koontz.

Little was born one month after his mother attended the world premiere of Psycho. He published his first novel, The Revelation, with St. Martin’s Press in 1990. After reading it, Stephen King became a vocal fan of Little’s work, and Little won the Bram Stoker Award for “Best First Novel” in 1990. He moved to New American Library for his next two novels, but was dropped from the company after he refused to write a police procedural as his next novel. He eventually returned to New American Library, with whom he continues to publish his novels.

Little has stated on several occasions that he considers himself a horror novelist, and that he writes in the horror genre, not the “suspense” or “dark fantasy” genres. He is an unabashed supporter of horror fiction and has been described as a disciple of Stephen King.

About michaelhicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella, Mass Hysteria, an Audiobook Listeners Choice Awards Horror Finalist, and Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Finalist. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers.

In addition to his own works of original fiction, he has written for the online publications Audiobook Reviewer and Graphic Novel Reporter, and has previously worked as a freelance journalist and news photographer in Metro Detroit.

Michael lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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