Book Review: UP JUMPED THE DEVIL by J.F. Gonzalez

My interest in the work of J.F. Gonzalez began after reading CLICKERS, and only intensified once I finished CLICKERS FOREVER. As you can imagine, I was beyond excited when I saw the announcement for UP JUMPED THE DEVIL, and immediately ordered a copy upon release. I began reading this on the day it showed up, eager for immersion into more of the author’s words. Once again, I was not disappointed.

This is a collection of four novellas, completed by J.F. Gonzalez prior to his death. These stories were previously released in limited edition format, and this is the first time they’ve been published together in one book. After reading these tales, I’d love to get my hands on each in the original format, but that’s probably wishful thinking on my part. Nevertheless, I’ll be on the lookout.

CLICKERS and CLICKERS FOREVER took me away from the grind of daily life, and I consider both to be “books I want to hug”. While I didn’t feel the exact same about this current collection, I still very much enjoyed it, and continue to understand why the author has such a following. All four novellas were entertaining, and contained some of my favorite storytelling aspects.

J.F. Gonzalez wrote relatable, realistic characters. It doesn’t take long for one to empathize with the protagonists in these stories. He also developed unique plots, and did a great job of pulling the reader in from the very beginning. I found it difficult to stop reading once I started, and couldn’t put the book down if I was in the middle of a novella—I had to finish the whole story first. I enjoyed that all of these stories share a theme of the occult/demons, as this is one of my favorite subgenres in horror. Because of this, I was intrigued, and found myself flipping pages quickly, eager for what was next.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll mention this again: I LOVE author notes. Backstory and insight from the author add an intimate element to the reading experience for me, enhancing my connection and understanding of the story. The author notes in this collection provide a closer look into each story’s development, as well as some background information on specific story elements (such as the research Gonzalez did regarding the occult). These notes are even more special to have, considering that the author is no longer with us.

My favorite story in this collection is SINS OF THE FATHER. That one really got under my skin and left an impression, but I enjoyed them all. If I had to pick a second favorite, it would be SECRETS.

I feel it’s worth mentioning that there were several errors present in this book. They were spread throughout, and for me personally, this detracts from the writing when I find them in a final copy. I would’ve added an additional half-star to the rating had it not been for this issue.

Overall, I’d recommend UP JUMPED THE DEVIL to other horror fans. If you’re already a J.F. Gonzalez fan, you need this collection on your shelf. For readers who are new to his writing, and interested in short fiction first, this might be a good place to start. Reading more of this author’s work leaves me with a desire to collect everything he has written. I have plans to seek out all that was previously published, and I’ll certainly be watching for more posthumous releases. His friends and fellow writers are doing a solid job of keeping his memory alive, and I’m so happy to have discovered his work.

4/5 Stars

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