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On May 3, 2010, Isaac Thorne scanned the ruins of what had been his driveway, wondering whether he’d ever be able to use it again. The torrential rains that pounded Middle Tennessee the previous two days washed the hilly path into a network of deep gulleys.
“I had no way into or out of my garage from the road,” he explains. “I was trapped. It was a bad time for my community, but also for much of the midstate.”
Fortunately for Thorne, the problem was short-lived.
Although the household and property damage faded over time, the flooding event that had closed or severely damaged a number of historic Nashville landmarks, such as the Grand Ole Opry House, left a deeper scar in Thorne’s memory.
“It was one hell of a spring,” he says. “I knew I would end up writing about it eventually. A little more than a decade later, I did.”
Inspired by the real-life flood, Thorne set about weaving a tale of trapped small-towners who rescue a stranger from rising waters, although they might have been better off to allow her to wash away. Hell Spring, the new 374-page horror novel that Thorne began crafting in 2020, chronicles the story. Set in 1955, the novel reports on eight friends and neighbors who become stranded in their local general store by flooding similar to that of 2010.
“None of the eight people who take shelter in Beard’s General Store that night are everything they claim to be,” Thorne says. “They all have secrets that haunt them: shame and guilt and other psychological traumas.”
The problem with rescuing the stranger from the flood waters is that she seems to feed on the very secrets that the small town residents hope to keep buried.
“In other words, these folks each have a choice to make. They can make amends and accept themselves for who they really are, or they can die.”
And, of course, there’s the matter of the flood.
When asked why the novel is set in 1955 instead of the modern era, Thorne says that he wanted to eliminate any possibility of a quick rescue by emergency personnel.
“These days, we have smartphones, the Internet, 911, and more,” he explains. “All the connectivity doesn’t always guarantee that a disaster gets mitigated, but they are a safety net that folks back in 1955 didn’t have access to.”
Thorne is also the author of the 2019 novel The Gordon Place, which takes place in the same fictional Tennessee small town as Hell Spring. That novel was a finalist in the Horror cateogry for the 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards. The audiobook edition, which was narrated by Sean Duregger, won the Horror category in the 2020 Independent Audiobook Awards. Similar to The Gordon Place, the tale in Thorne’s new novel is mixed with a few political and cultural observations.
“The Gordon Place was a story about generational racism,” he says. “So culture and politics was going to be more front-and-center there. When you think about politics and culture in 1955, there are a number of things that immediately come to mind: The Cold War, a booming economy, the encroachment of religion, and, of course, the civil rights movement.
“Those issues are obviously present in the context of the story,” Thorne continues. “I don’t think you can write realistically about a period of history in any region without including some of the everyday opinions and concerns one might have encountered. That said, I’m not looking to hit anyone over the head with anything there. All I’ll say is that the old adage about the more things change rings true.”
A 2019 review of The Gordon Place in Publishers Weekly magazine called Thorne “a gifted storyteller.” For his part, Thorne says he just writes what he sees.
“Every story springs from an imagination that has been influenced by its culture and environment: good, bad, or indifferent,” he says. “The Gordon Place cooked in my head for years before I wrote it down, and so did the new one.”
Hell Spring is currently available for pre-order on IsaacThorne.com as well as other retail outlets. It ships on Sept. 21, 2022.
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-938271-53-3
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938271-54-0
EBook ISBN: 978-1-938271-55-7
Page Count: 374
Physical Dimensions: 8.5″x5.5″x1″
Shipping Weight: Maximum 23oz.