I hope I didn’t leave you hanging too long. Autumn is always such a good time for mood reading that I had a couple of books I wanted to be sure to cram in before finishing Austin Dragon’s two-volume Sleepy Hollow Horrors set. I wrote about volume one, Hollow Blood, some weeks back. I wanted to read The Devil’s Patch to finish out the series before I forgot too much about the first one. The subtitle is the same as it is for the first volume: The Hunt for the Foul Murderer of Ichabod Crane. This imaginative retelling shifts the action away from Sleepy Hollow, although part of it takes place there, to the eponymous Devil’s Patch in upstate New York, near the Canadian border.
Instead of focusing solely on Ichabod’s avenging nephew Julian Crane, volume 2 adds an ensemble cast. The first half of the novel provides the backstory for ten characters who will eventually accompany Crane to the Devil’s Patch to confront the Headless Horseman on his home turf. The conceit here is that the Horseman, for some reason, has tried to kill each of the posse who eventually form to dispatch him. Perhaps there’s some prophecy or something that he’s heard. In any case, once Julian Crane recovers from his own encounter with the Horseman in book one, he begins to gather a group in Sleepy Hollow to go with him further upstate to take care of business. The group of ten constitute his posse and Brom Bones goes along too. They encounter the evil and defeat it.
There’s always a sense of accomplishment in finishing a set of books. What has dawned on me in the process of all this reading is that the story was already told by Washington Irving in one of America’s first literary collections. If fans want to engage with the story they need to take it in different directions, or tell it from a different perspective. This is sometimes done cinematically and, increasingly, in literary form. For me this is an autumn story. That makes sense since Irving set the climatic scene during a fall party at the Van Tassel estate. That tradition is frequently carried on in retold versions, but not always. Whether or not they are set in autumn, they seem to be appropriate reading for this time of year. That’s in keeping with the spirit of the season, whether in Sleepy Hollow or not.