This novel is kind of crazy, but in that great, over the top, 1970s horror way! Part Southern Gothic family drama, part supernatural horror tale, ALL HEADS TURN WHEN THE HUNT GOES BY is exceptionally well written. Farris is an accomplished and talented author with a deft hand at characterization and an impressive ability to conjure terrifying images without explicitly describing what you’re seeing. Other parts are more explicit: the violence, the sex, and particularly the racial politics. A great deal of the novel takes place on a Southern plantation in the 1940s, and the N-word is used frequently and cavalierly. As a writer, Farris is interested in the horrific legacy of slavery and the Jim Crow laws that replaced it, but that kind of language might be enough to turn some modern readers away.
The first half of the novel confused me a little — a deliberate structural choice on Farris’s part — by presenting several seemingly unrelated events that occur over the course of two years to seemingly unrelated characters, but by the end Farris manages to tie it all together quite well. The prose can be dense at times, and the pacing lackadaisical, but it all leads up to a climax that’s so creepy and satisfying that the reader’s patience is rewarded tenfold.
If you’re looking for something to read from the glory days of the horror paperback, from a time before Stephen King’s complete domination of the field, I would definitely recommend Farris’s ALL HEADS TURN WHEN THE HUNT GOES BY, so long as you don’t mind its unhurried pace and can stomach its warts-and-all exploration of abhorrent racial bigotry.