Gothic historical fiction that will haunt you.
This book is appropriate for teenagers.
The small town of Ste. Odile is about to host a new visitor.
Perdita Badon-Reed has come to this place to hone her skills as a sculptress, but also to escape a life behind her, including a fiancé, that she isn't sure she wants. For a woman in 1882, this is a huge risk, but her strong will determines she must take it. She believes staying at the home of her uncle, Father Condell, and taking on a commissioned sculpture will help clear her emotions and find meaning to her need for escape.
But all is not as it seems in this quiet community. Its secrets are dark and deep, and Perdita finds herself entangling in them. A young woman sentenced to death attaches herself to Perdita, an orphaned girl at the convent sees visions and
illustrates them with a talent beyond her years, and a persistent strangeness hovers as to why Perdita's fiancé's sister lost her life in connection to this town. But the most mysterious of all is Orien Bastide, an extremely wealthy man who seems to be a benefactor to
Ste. Odile but is an enigma, nearly a legend, to the residents.
Perdita's embroilment becomes an urgency to help those around her, to find answers to perplexing questions that continue to mystify. Her persistence and strength preserve, but will they be enough to save her from an unimaginable horror waiting in the shadows?
John S. McFarland successfully weaves together history and fiction to create this gothic mystery novel, a tale with a chilling narrative sure to pique your interest while slipping beneath your skin. Ste. Odile will stay with you long after you've left
the confines of the pages... come and learn why.
John S. McFarland's short stories have appeared in numerous journals, in both the mainstream and horror genres. His tales have been collected with stories by Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, and Richard Matheson. His work has been praise by such writers as T.E.D. Klein and Phillip Fracassi, and he has been called "A great, undiscovered voice in horror fiction." McFarland's story collection, The Dark Walk Forward, was published in 2020 by Dark Owl Publishing and contains stories connected to the small town of Ste. Odile. His young reader series about Bigfoot, Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom, is in print in three languages. The sequel to The Black Garden, The Mother of Centuries, is coming from Dark Owl Publishing in 2022.
"It's a really unusual and impressive collection - not only harrowing, as promised on the cover, but also frequently quite touching. ...I very much admire the elegance - at times, where appropriate, the old-fashioned elegance - of [the] writing."
~ T. E. D. Klein on The Dark Walk Forward
The Dark Walk Forward is McFarland's collection of historic gothic horror tales and was published by us in 2020. Ste. Odile in America is the home of more strange stories and eclectic persons beyond what Perdita experiences, civilians, ex-military, and medical personnel alike. Consider it as a companion piece to The Black Garden, detailing more of the twists and turns of the unusual and bizarre within the
nondescript and quiet town.
The collection has received accolades from colleagues and reviewers in the horror and thriller genres and consistently has five-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads.
Publishers Weekly gave it high praise, saying,
"McFarland tempers his frights with the mercy of familial love and sympathy
for outsiders and victims. Horror readers will be riveted."
"McFarland's precise prose evokes the period without ever feeling too stiff or mannered... Ste. Odile is richly rendered, a Cajun fever dream that blends nearly all the tropes of Southern and Continental Gothic.... The author has mastered the simmering miasma of Victorian horror fiction, whetting readers' anticipation for terrible things that take chapters and chapters to arrive... For those who love a good, old-fashioned, slow-burning novel of the occult, this one more than delivers."
~ Kirkus Reviews
"McFarland takes his stories concerning the strange, history-haunted town of Ste. Odile to new and Gothic proportions in this novel of a young woman who must confront an unnatural horror which spans both centuries and continents.
Richly imagined, this is an intricate, intelligent and absorbing tale of faith and sacrifice."
~ John Linwood Grant,
author of Where All is Night, and Starless
"The Black Garden is literate and suspenseful, a complex, lyrical story drawn from the dark traditions of Southern Gothic horror. John McFarland has written a grand opera of a tale."
~ Elizabeth Donald,
author of The Cold Ones, Nocture, and Setting Suns
"In The Black Garden, John S. McFarland sets the mood early and keeps you immersed in it until the end. In 1882, Perdita Badon-Reed rejects a proposal of marriage and looks for a fresh start in the odd and isolated Mississippi town of Ste. Odile. What she doesn't count on are the town's dark secrets and the personage of Orien Bastide. John McFarland creates a dark atmosphere with great skill that keeps you reading this gothic horror tale."
~ Debbie Monterrey, KMOX Radio
"Part of the appeal of any historical novel is the detail given about a time and place. McFarland's descriptions of Ste. Odile are elaborate and fascinating. The extensive research McFarland undertook to complete this novel contributes to the suspense of the story. Fans of horror fiction will find much to admire in McFarland's novel. The combination of historical detail, appealing characters and sinister story make
The Black Garden a good choice for discriminating lovers of the genre."
~ Jennifer Alexander, West End Word
"McFarland captures the claustrophobic social milieu of the period skillfully: his strong female protagonists
are victims of an oppressive society, curbed by prejudice and stuffy morality, long before they are Bastide's.
I enjoyed the way the narrative progressed, interspersed generously with letters exchanged between Perdita,
her Bostonian friend Moira and Hypollite, a potential suitor, allowing periodic respite from the increasingly sinister
environs of Ste. Odile, yet never quite enough to loosen the tension the author relentlessly builds up."
~ Lavanya Karthik, book critic, Mumbai, India
"John McFarland's novel, The Black Garden, is a loving homage to the horror thrillers of old, where men were men (despite the tuxedos and flowery verbiage) and women were women (despite the corsets and lack of suffrage), and the monsters went bump in the night instead of twinkling like a disco ball at the Laser Floyd show."
~ Raul Friswold, The Riverfront Times
While we wait for The Black Garden to be released,
here are some of the subjects discussed and referenced in the novel.
from The Huffington Post
American Women Sculptors from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer from National Museum of Women in the Arts
The "Ghosting" of Incest and Female Relations in Harriet Hosmer's Beatrice Cenci from MuturalArt Services, Inc.
Edmonia Lewis from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
from Ancient Art, University of Alabama
from The Collector
Siege of Montsegur from Military Wiki
Moby-Dick Analysis from eNotes.com
Incubus from Mythology.net
Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare from Khan Academy
Images (from top to bottom):
The Black Garden book cover image by M.Y. Cover Design. Cover design by Dark Owl Publishing.
Beatrice Cenci by Harriet Hosmer, 1857, image from Google Arts & Culture
Author photo by Cindy McFarland, 2020.
The Dark Walk Forward book cover by Dark Owl Publishing.
The Death of Cleopatra by Edmonia Lewis, the first professional African-American sculptor, 1876, image from Smithsonian American Art Museum
"The Female School of Art" from The Illustrated London News, 1868.
"The Nightmare" (also called "Incubus") by Henry Fuseli - wartburg.eduimage, Public Domain, WikiCommons
"'Wooding Up' on the Mississippi" by Frances Flora Bond Palmer, 1863