Skip to content

Book Review of There Are No Saints by Stephen Kanicki


There Are No Saints by Stephen Kanicki is an engaging and subtly humorous tale set in the mid-1800s in Titusville, a tiny village in Pennsylvania. Like overgrown corn stalks, or macabre grand cathedrals, oil derricks sprouted from farmland. “oil… is the new religion of Titusville”. 

Told in the first person by Dexter James, the plot revolves around the gullibility of the uneducated population of this suddenly wealthy town. Men had struck an underground river of oil, causing thousands to rush to Titusville, hoping for instant wealth. The prospects of wealth attracted Dexter James, a self-proclaimed “demonologist extraordinaire.” 

Sometimes called an exorcist, Dexter preferred the term demonologist because it sounded more academic. He claimed to be well educated in his chosen field and prepared to “cast off demons, devils, spooks, spirits and evil minions.” Perhaps a charlatan or a snake-oil salesman, a slick con-artist or amateur psychiatrist, Dexter is ready to find his fortune through art performance combined with theology and psychology. He was searching the crowds of pedestrians for a possible client when he spotted her.  The belief that demons exist and can possess people is of course the stuff that makes great horror tales and Kanicki weaves a great story with his invading evil spirits. Does exorcism work or is it all due to the power of suggestion and psychology? If you believe you’re possessed, then an exorcism just might cure you. 


She had rounded hips that swayed as she sauntered, and “her chest practically spilled from her dress like rising dough from a pan.” Long golden curls piled and bounced on top of her head. Dexter attached himself to Leslie Reed, a woman who was not as she seemed. A paradox. An enigma or Dexter’s demon? 

Kanicki’s ability to involve the reader is evident in sensory imagery. Dexter’s lungs are caught by the muggy air, but a cooling breeze made the long journey bearable. He basked in the sight of the “flora and fauna” and the sounds of singing birds. The sun warmed his face as he drew in the smell of manure. 

The story’s plot of exorcism and morals is enhanced by the skillful characterization of Boo, a young, uneducated but intelligent twelve-year-old, and Glad, a minor demon who was stubborn but short on brains. Then there is Becky, a young polio victim, and Anna and others who may or may not have benefitted from the rites of exorcism and conflicts with the local parish priests. 
Told with humor, the novel is an entertaining peek into the climate of the past when sudden wealth and optimism created a materialistic mindset with declining morals and social problems. Alcoholism is on the rise as oil gushes into the sky. Gambling and prostitution cause alarm. Does Dexter make his fortune or find his calling? 


No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

Add Comment

Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.
E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.

Form options