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Side By Side Reviews: THE AUCTIONEER by Joan Samson

Publisher: Valancourt Books
Part of our Classic Horror Package in collaboration with Paul Tremblay
It's a surreal thing when you are reading a book written almost 50 years ago that still has some relevance to current political and social events. And it's an even bigger travesty that Joan Samson did not make it around to put out more books... because she's got major chops! She created something, at the time, extremely original, compelling, immersive, and chilling.

We get to follow a family who enjoys a simple life in their simple town. They are just going about everyday routines when a stranger arrives in town --- an auctioneer. This stranger starts encouraging people to get rid of items they may not need - almost regardless of physical condition - with hopes that the money can be used to expand the town and its police and security. And that is just what the auctioneer wants the townspeople to think, but he has some sinister and nasty agenda on his mind. Essentially, he is trying .... to.... make... the town great... again.... *slams face into wall repeatedly* The town is full of sheeple who just all start falling in line... and it seems no one is really questioning what is going on. Everyone is remaining silent and just giving away their things. It really frosts my cookies watching people witness evil and wrongdoing and not say or do anything... but this was the 70s, so maybe expectations and behaviors were different then. But watching this happen, I thought of myself as Sebastian from The Neverending Story screaming at the characters as if they could hear me. I mean SCREAMING! One time I slung the book to the end of the couch. I was flabbergasted at the whole situation!

This book makes you feel uneasy and, at times, a little gross. And when I say gross, that may not be the best word --- maybe 'disgusted' is a better choice. It's a fine line between the two, I know that much.

Instagram: @findingmontauk1

Twitter: Alex | IG: FindingMontauk1 | LOHF

It’s kinda the situation of the lemon law in this book where there are laws to protect you but there are no laws in this book to protect the characters from what they face. This is a slow burn but it’s definitely worth a read. I felt broken and helpless by the end of it. I had no real path in sight for how these characters would handle their predicament. If you want to feel the grief just radiate off the pages then I’d say you should check this out. 
An auctioneer comes to town. He’s a city slicker with big talk. He impresses the local town folk on his skills of getting people to pay lots of money for junk. The whole thing starts with a murder in a small town and them needing more law enforcement to prevent any further killings in their quaint rural town. Where ever one knows everyone and this type of stuff isn’t supposed to happen here. They set up this donation situation where the town folk donates their hidden treasures to fund more police in their town. Until it becomes overrun with police and their main job is to collect the townspeople to keep donating to the auction. 
The question is what do people donate when they have nothing more to give. The main character is struggling with standing up and thinking this isn’t his place. As I was reading, I slowly began to feel lost and hopeless of who to tell the main character to turn to for help. It was a gut-punch of a book. I’ve taken a while to write this review and I still feel the effects of this book weighing on me.
The cool thing about this cult classic is it’s been reintroduced back into the mainstream by Valancourt Books. Originally written in 1975, it’s now in a snazzy paperback with an introduction by one of my favorite authors, Grady Hendrix. Set in Harlowe, New Hampshire in a farm community, we meet an intriguing kind of evil. Perly Dunsmore is the town’s auctioneer and recently inquired an old mansion to set up shop. The auctions are funded by the residents’ donations and are meant to benefit the community, but instead, he bleeds them dry. Things really take a turn in this atmospheric, dreadful, suspenseful tale.

Janelle Janson @ She Reads with Cats


"An old-time Yankee auction is the crossroads of America. An old time Yankee auction is where the best of the old meets the best of the new. It's where recycling meets up with the old saying, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' It's where the best of the old-timers meet the best of the newcomers. You've got people on your right and people on your left. You've all got things to offer, and I sincerely hope that this here seventh old-time Harlowe auction will help you get together."
Ouf this book! There's a creeping sense of unease and dread that grows from the very first page. It's wild to think The Auctioneer was written over 40 years ago and yet remains remarkably relevant to today's politics!
Basically, a rural New Hampshire farming town changes when a newcomer arrives and dazzles the town with his quick-witted thoughts and fast-talking auctions. Before they know what's happening they are suckered in and in true New Englander fashion-- they aren't talking to each other about how much they've "donated." No one wants to speak out against the newcomer who's bought their town a new ambulance and is intent on making the area great again...sound familiar?!
I was sucked into the story and had to keep reading to see just how far these idiotic fools would go before they started getting bristly. 
Similarities to Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery' are not unfounded.
A solid 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ that will leave you with an eerie feeling of unease.
You can find Tav @readswithdogs

The Auctioneer

By Joan Samson

Harlow, New Hampshire is a quaint small town. It’s a farm town where everyone knows your name and your business. One day a stranger comes to town. Perly Dunsmore moves into an old home in the city and sets up an auction house. To ingratiate himself to the town, he offers to do a benefit auction with donated items to help raise money for the sheriff’s deputies. The only problem is, there aren’t any deputies. Harlow is a sickeningly safe town, and the sheriff has had it covered with no problems. Perly, however, will not be dissuaded and sets to convince the town they need deputies. Once the town agrees, and Perly goes around asking for donations for the auction. The town pulls together and donates some quality pieces, and the auction is a massive success. The town has deputies, way more than enough deputies. Perly continues to have auctions asking for donations from the town and people more and more of their belongings to Perly. Eventually, people begin to run out of possessions to donate, but Perly’s auctions continue, and donations must be provided OR ELSE.

I didn’t care for this book at first. I thought it was boring and that nothing was happening. I told some friends that I was close to putting it down. Looking back on this story, I can’t help but think about the fable of the boiling frog. The frog doesn’t realize anything is wrong because the temperature of the water is rising so slowly that it seems as if nothing has changed until the frog is all cooked up by then it’s too late.  The thing about this book is by the time you realize that anything is happening, so much has happened. Everything that Perly says makes sense until all of a sudden it doesn’t, and by that time, it’s too late. Can the town of Harlowe be saved from Percy and his auctions, or would it be best just to pack up and leave? 

There are many parallels between this book and the current political climate of the world. Perly is an avatar for the rise of fascism across the globe, and the citizens of Harlowe are all of us, sitting by while it happens, only realizing the problem when it may be too late to stop. The truly WILD part is that this book, which so perfectly mirrors our world in 2020, was first released in 1975. If you’re worried that this will all seem overworked and forced, it doesn’t come off that way. If you’re reading this and bored, I’m asking you to power through the parts where you feel nothing is happening because when you look back on them, you’ll see how much was lurking under the surface.

I give The Auctioneer four stars for making me outrageously uncomfortable not only while I was reading it but for days after I finished.

Matt is a middle school math teacher. He's originally from Kentucky but currently lives in Arkansas with his beautiful wife and 2-year-old son. In addition to reading dark fiction, he also enjoys board games and Disney World.
Instagram: @teamredmon
Twitter: @teamredmonreads

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