Pioson PenJames Kisner
Zebra Books
1990

The folks at the seance hung on Tricia Mumford’s every word. They were believers. Everybody except Roger Kant: He was a skeptic. He didn’t believe in psychic phenomena, and he especially didn’t believe in Tricia Mumford, the world-famous trance medium. Roger made a career of debunking fakes like Tricia; now he’d have a field day. He’d write a book, exposing her trickery. He’d speak on the radio, too. He’d tell the truth… Then the violent headaches began–the small accidents–the nightmares–the horrific visions. Roger the skeptic shrugged it all off as mere coincidence; maybe he’d been working too hard. Then he started getting panic attacks when he spoke on the radio. And he couldn’t write a word… Someone–something–was determined to teach Roger Kant just what was real and what wasn’t. The hard way. And the lessons were just beginning…

A cursory glance at the bibliography and general history of author James Kisner reveals that the man was a rather prolific author in the horror and dark fiction genres, another one that I hadn’t really noticed until I read this one novel of his at a whim not too long ago. Matter of fact, I do recall publishing a review of it immediately after reading it back in the mid-2000s on my old Live Journal blog, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle when I moved things to Blogspot back in the day. It happens. Fortunately, I can recall a great deal about the book, and can hammer out another review, which I’m doing now. Hopefully this will stay in the archives.

So, yeah, Poison Pen is your typical story of a skeptic of psychic phenomena that seemingly runs into the real deal, and has all sorts of horrific things happen to him while trying to debunk her as a fraud as he did so many others. Essentially, she’s messing with his livelihood because she got all butt-hurt that someone dared to have a healthy dose of skepticism. Weird, spooky stuff happens to him, and by the end of the book…the bad guys win. Yeah. I’m not a big fan of having the antagonists–and believe me, they’re the bad guys, despite of how much the story wants you to feel any kind of sympathy for these people (“Oh, no! Somebody doesn’t believe our power is real! We are SO PERSECUTED!!!”)–turn out to be the winners in all of this.

What doesn’t help things along was how not impressed I was with Kisner’s writing. It was…meh. I didn’t hate it, but then there was nothing that really jumped out at me to put this beyond yet another of the myrad of horror writers that were still being released back in the day. Stephen King did a better job with the whole “Cursed By A Witch” trope in the book Thinner. The story was bland, the plot rather predictable, and in the end you just feel mild contempt for all the characters involved.

Overall, Poison Pen won’t be getting me to look up the other titles Kisner had written before his untimely death in 2008. Pass.

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