Exclusive first look: Rhett & Link are back with a darkly comedic new novel
EW has an exclusive preview of The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek, by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal. The ’90s-set novel centers on two best friends who fight sinister forces in their Deep South town. It’s the follow-up for the author team to Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery, which debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Their latest title finds the pair operating in a new mode.
Here’s the official synopsis for the book: “It’s 1992 in Bleak Creek, North Carolina, a sleepy little place with all the trappings of an ordinary Southern town: two Baptist churches, friendly smiles coupled with silent judgments, and an unquenchable appetite for pork products. Beneath the town’s cheerful façade, however, Bleak Creek teens live in constant fear of being sent to The Whitewood School, a local reformatory with a record of putting unruly teens back on the straight and narrow — a record so impeccable that almost everyone is willing to ignore the mysterious deaths that have occurred there over the past decade. At first, high school freshmen Rex McClendon and Leif Nelson believe what they’ve been told: that the students’ strange demises were all just tragic accidents, the unfortunate consequence of succumbing to vices like Dungeons & Dragons and Nirvana. But when the shoot for their low-budget horror masterpiece, PolterDog, goes horribly awry — and their best friend, Alicia Boykins, is sent to Whitewood as punishment — Rex and Leif are forced to piece together the unsettling truth of the school and its mysterious founder, Wayne Whitewood.”
Rhett & Link have exclusively shared the cover for their novel with EW, as well as an exclusive excerpt. Check out the preview below. The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek publishes Oct. 29, and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek, by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal
The boy raced through the woods, blood streaming from his hand.
He was growing faint.
Can’t pass out. Just gotta make it to the fence.
He heard his pursuers yelling. They sounded as panicked as he felt.
He didn’t know if the dizziness was due to blood loss or the shock of what had just happened.
They were gonna kill me.
He’d known this place was twisted from day one, when they’d stripped him of everything, including his own name. But even with all the bizarre, disturbing things he’d seen, he had still assumed that the brutal punishments were designed to intimidate. Not exterminate. That’s why he’d been so calm, willingly letting them guide him along blindfolded and gagged, right up until the moment they’d sliced his palm.
What if this particular test was no different? Maybe he was doing exactly what they wanted him to, running through the trees like a trophy animal. They had only cut his hand. No arteries. Plus, he’d surprised himself, getting away from the two men holding him, one of them enormous, much bigger than any of the adults he’d seen there. Had they purposely let him go? No, he shouldn’t sell himself short. He’d fought like hell.
The boy felt a flash of pride. All those hours of memorizing Jean-Claude Van Damme’s moves had been worth it.
Can’t wait to rewatch Kickboxer.
He couldn’t move at a full clip, as branches, rocks, and logs snuck up on him in the meager moonlight. He dodged the obstacles, hoping he was heading in a straight line.
Where’s the damn fence?
He saw it just before he collided with it, the grass of the pasture on the other side of the chain links glowing a dull gray under the night sky. He started to climb without thinking, pain exploding as the metal wire slipped into his open wound. He stifled a scream, hoping to conceal his exact point of escape. While clenching his jaw to summon the resolve to hoist himself up the ten-foot barrier, he saw it: a cut section of fence not five steps away.
As he pushed his way through the flap and stood up in the pasture, he heard the roar of an engine to his left. A pickup truck was hurtling across the pasture in his direction.
They were trying to head him off.
He broke into a sprint toward the cover of trees on the side of the pasture, seeing his own shadow in front of him as the headlights shone on his back. He was confident in his speed. Ninety-ninth percentile in the President’s Challenge Shuttle Run. He’d timed himself.
But they were closing the distance fast.
Get to the treeline.
He knew there’d be a barbed wire cow fence at the edge of the field. He’d have to clear it in stride.
In only a matter of seconds, they were upon him.
He was steps from the trees.
The headlights lit up the short fence, helping him judge his distance. He stutter-stepped to set up his leap, then threw his lead leg in the air.
A clean jump.
He heard the truck skid to a stop on the wet grass behind him, the doors opening. Men screaming.
He knew this stretch of forest well; there was barely a patch of nature around town he hadn’t explored on his own. Another hundred feet or so and he’d make it to the clearing.
He broke into the wide lane cut through the forest, a grassy corridor that followed the sewage line to the water treatment plant. He heard the men clumsily moving through the woods, crashing into branches and grumbling to themselves.
Randomly choosing a direction, he dashed down the clearing, reaching a manhole in less than fifty steps. He grabbed a nearby stick and jammed it into the notch on the cover, just as he’d done a thousand times before, no longer thinking about his throbbing hand. The weighty metal disc lifted, at which point he grabbed the underside and raised the lid on its edge, releasing an acrid smell. He swiftly stepped down into the rank darkness below, skittering down the iron rungs as fast as he could.
The disheveled men popped out of the trees ten seconds after he’d dropped the manhole cover in place.
The boy listened as their cursing voices passed him.
He waited until he could no longer hear them, and then sat for another five minutes.
He thrust open the cover, emerging into the muggy night air.
The boy fled deeper into the woods.
Excerpted from THE LOST CAUSES OF BLEAK CREEK Copyright © 2019 by Rhett James McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln “Link” Neal III. To be published on October 29, 2019 by Crown, an imprint of Penguin Random House.