TMP Reads: Yeitso by Scott M. Baker

Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was sent to me by the author, but this has had no influence on the review content. TMP only accepts items for review that are in some way related to the blog’s central topic of film, and only accepts these items on the condition that the review remain impartial. All opinions are my own.

I’ll be doing something a little bit different for the TMP Reads series today: reviewing a novel. This series of posts (excepting my review of the classic television-centric novel Justice Girl) is typically reserved to star bios, filmography books, film history texts, and similar tomes. But after devouring today’s book in a matter of two days and recognizing the author’s creature-feature influence, I had to share my thoughts.

Scott M. Baker’s Yeitso is a horror novel involving a series of mysterious deaths in New Mexico in which the victims are all badly burned, found with traces of an organic substance on their skin. The origin of the substance isn’t easily traced, and the authorities have very few leads.

Russell Andrews, new to the Los Alamos police force after a long career with the NYPD, came to New Mexico with the hope of a quieter life, a safer environment in which to raise his teenage daughter — but instead, he finds himself taking on this complicated mystery as his first case.

I was genuinely startled when I unboxed this book. The cover terrifies me as much as -- possibly even more than -- the monster that lives inside the book's pages! (Image courtesy of the author's website)
I was genuinely startled when I unboxed this book. The cover terrifies me as much as — possibly even more than — the monster that lives inside the book’s pages! (Image courtesy of the author’s website)

Yeitso was published this year by Blood Bound Books.

Though Baker’s novel is set in the present day and not directly related to black and white cinema, it certainly evokes the tone and storytelling of a great mid-century B movie. Baker’s style of writing is highly cinematic. With each descriptive line, the story comes to life in the reader’s mind as though screening a late-night, classic-monster creepfest on television.

Baker is fully aware that his novel has B movie leanings, having been inspired by the films he grew up watching. He definitely uses it to his advantage, paying homage to the genre. Even his characters acknowledge the fact that the mysterious monster of his creation harkens back to a bygone era of horror:

“All we have to go on is this fluid. It’s definitely organic. Now, I’m not saying that a colony of bugs is your culprit, but the only lead we have is finding out where this mixture came from. If it’s not from a mammal, then it has to be from either an insect or a plant.”

“Sounds like the plot of a monster movie.”

“I want Patrick Stewart to play me.”

(Yeitso, p. 75)

Yeitso has its fair share of fright-inducing moments. And I am a wimp, so if it was B movie rather than a book, there would definitely be a few eye-hiding moments for me.

However, the novel is as much a character study as it is a tale of the creepy-crawlies. On the surface, Baker’s characters fit a lot of the stereotypes you’d expect to find in a novel like this (or in a B movie, for that matter). There’s the good cop with a somewhat troubled past, the bad cop who is sure to derail the investigation, the rebellious teens falling prey to the monster… and so on.

What really struck me about this novel, and what elevates its characters above those stereotypes, is how effectively Baker lets the reader into the minds of the characters while maintaining an omniscient style of narration. There are quite a few characters to keep track of as the investigation becomes more complicated (and more deaths occur), but Baker maintains distinctiveness in the novel’s central perspectives and balances them nicely.

I greatly enjoyed Yeitso and would recommend the novel to anyone who loves both B movies and reading. Have a seat, read a chapter or ten, and then begin a marathon of films like Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Tingler, and Attack of the Crab Monsters. You’ll find that Yeitso fits in nicely among these classic, creepy-crawly tales.

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