Craig Nybo is the Norman Rockwell of gory monster adventure fiction.
I’ve read two of Craig’s novels (his earlier foray into similar space — “just your average zombies versus the KKK story,” as he likes to say — was Allied Zombies for Peace, a breakneck 42-minute romp through a small town holiday parade that goes to hell with the throwing of an anarchist’s bomb and ends up with divisions of WWI vets, WWII vets, Vietnam vets, zombies, and the Ku Klux Klan going to the mat in real time), and here’s what I think the Craig Nybo, Novelist, brand is:
Nybo likes small American towns and small-town institutions (diners, parades, sheriffs, local papers), almost to the point of being cliched. I don’t view that pressing against the boundary of the hackneyed as being a bad thing, actually — I think Nybo knows what he finds evocative and powerful and he goes for its heart, willingly taking the risk that a reader might say “aw, I’ve seen this before.”
Except that the reader hasn’t seen this before, unless he’s been watching a lot of B monster movies and re-imagining them into the settings of Goonies or Doc Hollywood. Nybo’s newer novel (I think a third may be imminent, and the teaser at the back of Small Town Monsters suggests that Nybo’s continued to put down roots in his brand) is set in rural Montana, and follows an ensemble cast (though principally the Chief of Police, relocated from California and constantly butting up against small town secrets and prejudices, and a young woman with a brutal father and a need to get out of town) through their scrambling reactions as the town experiences the return of an old nightmare it had thought dead and buried: werewolf killings.
It would be easy to turn his small town settings and characters either into cynical critiques of America or shiny two-dimensional posters inviting you to go fishing in the Big Sky Country, and it is to Nybo’s great credit that he does neither. Like David Byrne at his best, Nybo seems to contemplate America with pleasure and, at the same time, an awareness of imperfections. That combination of affection and realism keep the stories gripping and fresh and prevents them from feeling like some kind of moralistic attack on the American small town.
I can’t wait for the next one.