While reading Sam Miller’s The Blade Between, I had to constantly remind myself, that it’s a work of fiction – horror, actually.
The book references similar Hudson street names, businesses (like The Pizza Pit) and quotes from daily Hudson parlance, such as “Hudson used to have a bowling alley…where the Walgreens is now.”
There’s bribery, blackmail, and a murderous gang on Warren Street, wearing large papier-mâché blue whale heads, wielding harpoons and terrorizing people.
Marauding gangs on Warren Street wearing papier-mâché blue whale heads? Sure, I’ll suspend belief for a novel.
The book references Hudson politics also – election “polls”, “watch parties”, and that “only the Common Council can decide to postpone an election…”
After reading that, I had to put the book down, walk around the house, and get something to eat before I could continue. There is only so much Hudson horror I can handle!
(The Common Council can’t postpone an election. There are no polls. A Hudson election watch party? What would we watch? The Columbia County Board of Elections taping a voting machine tally receipt to the wall?)
Interwoven with so much fiction, though, is some reality. Hudson is undergoing changes. Many of the issues that the fictional Hudson of “The Blade Between” faces, the real Hudson faces as well.
Both the author, Sam J. Miller, and the novel’s main character, Ronan, had fathers who owned butcher shops on Warren Street – but that is where character similarities end.
Author Sam J. Miller, born and raised in Hudson, is an accomplished writer. He is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (Nebula finalist, John W. Campbell Award winner).
The author, who now lives in upper Manhattan, comes back to Hudson to visit his mother. On a recent visit, Sam and I grabbed coffee from Cascades, and sat down and talked about his novel.
“Horror is how the world feels to me,” Sam told me. He has worked for over fifteen years as a community organizer in New York City, spending much of his time fighting gentrification. “I was scared of werewolves and such, but there’s kids facing homelessness, and that’s just as scary. That’s a horror that’s real.”
Regarding gentrification, Sam says, “It’s easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed against such powerful forces. And it’s hard to imagine a real-world scenario where displacement is reversed. But in fiction, I sure as hell can.”
The book is dark; hatred runs throughout fictional Hudson. Maybe hatred is the town’s karma – a city that prospered from the pain, agony, and slaughter of nature’s magnificent and beautiful whales; whale spirits that still haunt Hudson.
Residents wrestle with loving and hating each other, and listening to the other side. The novel’s culmination at Hudson’s annual “Winter Fest” is jaw-dropping!
The Blade Between is a must-read. If there were events and parties happening now, the book would be in every conversation. Hopefully, post-COVID, we can have Sam return and give an in-person talk (an event I’d be happy to help organize).
Sam gives credit where credit is due. The ending Acknowledgment Section lists names and places that us locals have seen and heard.
If you’re considering purchasing the book, please visit the Spotty Dog’s bookshop website, HERE. Help support the real Hudson’s local independent bookstore.
My copy of the The Blade Between now sits on a shelf in my rental space, to give visitors an added dimension of Hudson.
It’s right next to a whale cookie jar, a gift from Barbara Dague.
Hudson, I’m hoping to see a gang of blue sperm whale papier-mâché heads on Warren Street this Halloween, but read the book first to appreciate the reference!