Schrader's Chord
September 3, 2023

Book Review

Schrader's Chord

reviewed by Warner Holme


Scott Leeds’ “Schrader’s Chord” is a first novel that clearly fits into the horror genre. It delves into a wide range of topics, from music to family, providing the author ample opportunity to showcase his talents.

Charlie Remick has become somewhat of a music executive, striving to stay afloat by discovering new and lucrative acts. After meeting with one band, he receives a text about his estranged father’s death. The news devastates him, leading him to consume an entire six-pack of beer. It’s evident there’s little affection between them. As the story unfolds, Charlie returns to Washington State and learns his inheritance comprises a record store and several peculiar albums. He must reconcile with the unusual circumstances surrounding his family. Concurrently, a desperate individual seeks those albums, and once Charlie learns how to play them, chaos ensues for all involved.

Collectors, whether of books, music, or pottery, can share tales about rare and unique items that remain just out of their grasp. Using legendary albums as a central motif is not novel, but it’s the narrative’s structure that determines if the story is engaging or lackluster.

The narrative primarily explores familial ties: when support transforms into abuse, and when understanding turns to condescension. Personal obsessions also play a significant role. Recognizing that these factors often intersect underscores the complexities of the characters and emphasizes that even individuals consumed by their obsessions have other aspects of their lives that demand attention.

The story has a relatively low body count, focusing more on atmosphere and close calls than actual fatalities. This approach is effective, but it’s hard to overlook a recurring theme of four deaths in the book. We only gain substantial knowledge about two of these individuals. Even in the story’s present timeline, there are only three deaths. This isn’t to suggest the novel requires more bloodshed; it’s simply an odd narrative choice.

This novel is replete with easter eggs, whether intentional or not. There are mentions of cenobites and, in chapter 39, the introduction of a character named Toulon. The musical references are even more pronounced, providing delights for those familiar with them. A recurring joke about the Eagles might either entertain or irritate fans of the band, and nods to other perennially popular groups seem glaringly evident.

“Schrader’s Chord” is a commendable debut novel, adeptly blending its various themes and elements. While it’s not groundbreaking, it doesn’t come across as excessively imitative either. Aficionados of both records and horror should definitely give it a read. General horror enthusiasts will likely enjoy it too. However, those with a passion for records but a distaste for the macabre might want to pass, as the story is steeped in themes they might not relish

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