By Chet Williamson
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Unabridged narration performed by the author - listen to an audio sample in the player below.
In Merridale, semi-transparent blue apparitions have appeared. These aren’t ghosts, exactly. They are visions of the dead in their final moments – the last seconds of their lives portrayed for all to see. They don’t move, and they don’t speak.
Ash Wednesday is a thoughtful horror story about what happens to people when they are forced to gaze into the face of death and, specifically, the face of their own personal dead: their friends and family, those they believed to be dead and gone. Murders are revealed, rapes and other crimes. People despair, and try to create new lives out of the wreckage. Two of these are Bradley Meyers, a vet already driven half-crazy by his experiences in Vietnam, confronted by the sight of his dead son, and now barely capable of containing his rage, and Jim Callender, whose son has died in the same accident, for which he is partly responsible. As Callender sinks into guilt, Meyers moves toward murder.
This edition of Ash Wednesday contains a final portion that was not included with the book when it was first published. It was removed due to an editorial decision to which I acquiesced. After the book appeared, the last chapter was published in Bill Munster’s excellent small press magazine, Footsteps. The entire book as originally written appears here, and in the accompanying audiobook, for the first time.
– Chet Williamson
Praise for Ash Wednesday
“In a genre that spawns imitation Stephen King almost as fast as King himself produces the real thing, Chet Williamson has done something powerful and new. You will be haunted by this book.” — Orson Scott Card, Magazine of F&SF
“A rich, carefully constructed novel about the ravages of guilt and about the real horror of life…grim, unrelenting, and compelling.” — Michael Morrison, Fantasy Review
“A riveting, descriptive account of the effect the dead have on the living…both thought-provoking and entertaining. I couldn’t put the book down.” Betty Saputo, Rave Reviews
“A strong if necessarily macabre and uncomfortable tale of moral import.” — Fritz Leiber
“Excellently written, painstakingly plotted, and thoroughly believable. A masterfully skillful book.” — Peter Crowther
“The jacket copy claims ‘Ash Wednesday is a powerful, literate work of fiction that addresses the fantastic and human character — one of those rare works of horror literature, such as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House or Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, that transcends genre.’ Wow — a jacket quote that doesn’t lie!” — The Horror Show
“Disturbing, challenging, and anything but reassuring. A cold hard look at the everyday terrors of death, ghosts, and madness. A haunting vision of purgatory on earth.” — Ramsey Campbell
“Ash Wednesday is enough of a book to stand on its own without the intrusion of the supernatural. Yet its haunting image of the mute, motionless spirits that inhabit a small town remains lodged in the mind like a bullet in the brain. Chet Williamson has written a disturbingly memorable novel.” — Les Daniels