The Painted Darkness

“The tone and building dread reminds me of classic Stephen King. Great velocity and impact, and super creepy. Don’t go in the basement!”
— Stewart O’Nan, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Country

When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his grief by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed.  Eventually Henry’s mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.

Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art.  He loves his wife and his son and life couldn’t be better… except there’s something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home.  There’s something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.

A winter storm is brewing and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness.  He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.

But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him… or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?

Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share, The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief—and what happens when we’re finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.

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Reviews & Praise:
“Fast-paced, satisfying horror… a compelling read thanks to skillfully composed prose that builds tension and evokes emotional response. The paper edition includes several eerie full-page b&w illustrations by Jill Bauman.”
Publishers Weekly

“Lovingly written and lovingly packaged, this novella manages to make poignant observations about art, imagination and even love — all while scaring the standing water out of us… The fears Freeman marshals here are both familiar and primal — a deep woods and a dark cellar — but his inviting prose and inventive imagery bring fresh perspectives to them, while propelling us as each section progresses… one of the more satisfying and fulfilling horror stories you’re likely to read this year.”
— Alan Cranis,

“Freeman has written a memorable tale of how our fears contribute to our creativity and what can happen if we wait too long to confront them. It is a touching and terrifying novel that will make an impression that will definitely last.”
— Barry Hunter, The Baryon Review

The Painted Darkness is one of the best stories I’ve read this year… We all have childhood demons of one kind or another and this story really struck a chord with me. Mr. Freeman takes you on a journey that is both dark and uplifting. This story will scare the hell out of you and also bring a tear to your eyes.”
— Peter Schwotzer, Famous Monsters Of Filmland

“It’s an ambitious piece of storytelling that delves not only into the mysterious act of creation itself — something that many in Freeman’s audience will be able to relate to — to something we can all relate to: the crippling power of childhood fears. The fact that it does all this in quiet, understated tones reminiscent of the likes of Charles L. Grant makes it all the more amazing, moving and powerful… In The Painted Darkness, Freeman is doing far more than telling a scary story (although he is telling a scary story, and doing it quite well). He’s looking at the questions that all artists are frequently asked… The Painted Darkness is a quick read, but it’s one that sinks in and stays with you for a while. Artists will have a special appreciation for Freeman’s views on the nature of creation, but anyone who has an appreciation for the work that artists do — not to mention the appreciation of a good old-fashioned spook story — will enjoy this book.”
— Blu Gilliand, Dark Scribe Magazine

“Simply put, The Painted Darkness is one of those rare novellas that offers more than your standard genre novel; it’s a study of one man’s battle with his imagination, how it has harmed and also helped him. It displays fears that all adults harbor, and builds tension slowly but surely… Do yourself a favor and check this one out. Jill Bauman provides some fantastic interior artwork, and Brian Keene offers a brief introduction that’ll psyche any reader up.”
— Nick Cato, The Horror Fiction Review

“Freeman’s The Painted Darkness is a hauntingly beautiful tale exploring the thin line between fantasy and reality, which is so often broken in the creative process… Freeman’s narrative effortlessly straddles that of a young Henry when he first discovers the power of “painting against the darkness” and older, conflicted Henry, whose demons have finally demanded he face the past. What is real? What isn’t? A basement full of monsters? Legions of red-eyed, haunting rabbits? Freeman deftly handles a story which reveals itself in good time, and doesn’t leave the reader feeling cheated or hoodwinked at the end… Such a powerful theme Freeman delivers with this work, and perhaps the best answer to anyone who questions the validity and purpose of art and creativity in our daily lives: to combat the darkness and hold it at bay.”
The Midnight Diner

“Quite possibly one of the darkest, most beautifully written books I’ve seen this year.”
— Paperback Horror

“…a stunning example of how a skilled writer can make just a few hours in a character’s life and leave readers spellbound… Freeman is a gifted writer. His descriptions vivid, the horror lurking in the shadows he creates unsettling, the novella is carefully crafted like Henry’s paintings… This story is not designed to make you jump, the horror here is subtle like the prose of a master like Poe or Hawthorne. It lingers long after you are done reading. Highly recommended, this ranks with some of the best literary thrillers I have read.”
The Horror Review

“Not to be missed. A well-written suspense tale that will frighten and touch.”
— Stillwater Public Library Newsletter, August 2010

“His writing oozes with classic Stephen King style. Brian’s pacing and storytelling were spot-on, invoking a sense of fear and chills as I read, and in the end he took me by surprise with a refreshing twist.”
— Daniel S. Boucher, The Novel Blog

“Brian James Freeman (who has previously published without his middle name) handles the story with a deftness that shows his talent. The reader is transported from the past to the present seamlessly as Freeman steers the story toward an understanding of the monsters that lurk in our world. Everyone is afraid of monsters and the things that go bump in our nightmares, but Freeman realizes that the reality is that real evil is much more horrific than the constructs of our mind. Henry is frantic to discover what is destroying the world around him as he races against his mind, and the monsters within and without, that threaten to destroy him, his family, and his world entirely. Henry has always used painting to hold the darkness at bay but the time has come for action now. This story is a great mix of psychological and supernatural horror that will hook the reader from the outset and not release him from its teeth until the final word.”
— Josef Hernandez, Minneapolis Books Examiner

“The tone and building dread reminds me of classic Stephen King. Great velocity and impact, and super creepy. Don’t go in the basement!”
— Stewart O’Nan, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Country and A Prayer for the Dying

“Brian James Freeman’s evocative tale about the dark corners of an artist’s imagination is elegant and haunting. This beautifully designed book with splendid illustrations by Jill Bauman is a pleasure to read and a joy to hold.”
— David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Shimmer

“Spooky stuff!”
—  Richard Matheson,
New York Times bestselling author of What Dreams May Come and I Am Legend

The Painted Darkness is a dark, terrifying, and deeply moving gem of a novella.  Brian James Freeman managed to both scare me and move me to tears.”
— Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Keepsake

“Wonderfully reminiscent of the quiet horror of Charles L. Grant, The Painted Darkness takes readers on a gently chilly walk through the forest of fears both conscious and subconscious. With Straubian lyricism, Brian James Freeman evokes not only the irrational terrors of childhood, but addresses the roots of creativity and the vital importance of art. A very impressive achievement.”
— Bentley Little, author of The House and His Father’s Son

The Painted Darkness delves into territory that fascinates so many of us — the fine lines between beauty and horror, faith and fear, art and the unconscious. Both a wonderful allegory and a gripping read, Brian James Freeman has written a taut, memorable tale.”
— Michael Koryta, award-winning author of So Cold the River, The Cypress House, and The Ridge

“The printed page is Brian James Freeman’s canvas, and he is painting darkness.”
— Brian Keene, award-winning author of The Rising and Darkness On the Edge of Town

“His writing oozes with classic Stephen King style. Brian’s pacing and storytelling were spot-on, invoking a sense of fear and chills as I read, and in the end he took me by surprise with a refreshing twist.”
— Daniel S. Boucher, The Novel Blog

Publication History:
• Audiobook
September 13, 2012

• Trade Paperback
February 23, 2012

• Cemetery Dance Publications
Trade Hardcover Edition: $19.99
Signed Slipcased Limited Edition: $75
Deluxe Traycased Lettered Edition: $175
ISBN: 978-1-58767-208-8
Publication Date: December 21, 2010

• eBook
July 3, 2010

hardcover, trade paperback, and eBook editions
hardcover, trade paperback, and eBook editions
audiobook edition
audiobook edition