A Prison Without Locks-Horror enthusiasts have a new tale to frighten them!
David Ruggerio returns to what he loves. Horror!

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

On November 25th, 2020, David Ruggerio’s new horror novel, A Prison Without Locks, was released by his publisher,. Black Rose Writing. Based on a nineteenth century slave song, this book tests your courage. Are you afraid of the dark? You better be! A candidate for Best Horror for 2021..

“All at once, the darkness became claustrophobic, with each tense breath she forced herself not to hyperventilate on the stagnant air. The blackness now robbed her best sense and replaced it with a paralyzing fear. Her heart raced as that of “rabbit in a snare.” She could taste the saliva thickening in her mouth to a rancid paste. She closed her eyes, the inky blackness pressed in on her soul. She sensed something; it was only inches from her cheek. The still air that held her face stirred. Was that a finger reaching for her? My God, it was nearly touching her cheek! She couldn’t breathe, it felt as if someone was choking her. Then, the silence was instantly severed, ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling. Martha’s heart stopped momentarily, that was not Duke! It couldn’t be! That was enough for her, she bolted like a young child frightened of what was under the bed and ran as fast as she could up the stairs, directly into the soothing illumination of her bedroom. She slammed the door shut. As she bolted the door, she finally could exhale. At her age, this was a bit much. Her hands were shaking, was it just her imagination? Could there be someone or something hiding within the darkness? No, it was all her imagination. Then she faintly heard something slowly brushing up against the bolted door. It was feeling, reaching for her–trying to sense her fright. Martha backed as far as she could away from the door, she cowered in the corner. Her fear was feeding the darkness.”

David Ruggerio’s new release-A Prison Without Locks, will be one of the best horror novels for 2020.

Here are the early reviews:

A Prison Without Locks receives a 5 star review form Readers Favorites.

Set in a small town in Upstate New York, A Prison Without Locks by David Ruggerio is the story of good vs evil. It begins in Wawarsing, a sleepy little town where everyone knows everyone and nothing is a secret. The people in this town live a very simple and contented life, but that changes with the arrival of Doctor Roger Pretorius. He wants to practice medicine and he needs to stay in a small town like Wawarsing because he wants to hide the tremor in his left hand. His silver tongue is enough to make him a hit with the people of the town, especially the newcomer nun Epiphany Achul. Things are changing in this town and suddenly everyone is afraid of the dark. Something is lurking in the shadows that terrifies everyone and there isn’t much they can do about it. Can they win this battle against a powerful evil that thrives on their fear?

The suspense runs high the moment Marlene Bourke-White and Tammy are introduced. David Ruggerio sets the tone with the description of Wawarsing and how eerily simple this town is. I hated Pretorius with a passion; however, I liked Father Shea Calhoun. He is, perhaps, the only character who is sane apart from Sister Beatrice. The author builds the tension, allows the fear to fester, and makes sure the reader is unable to put the book down until the end. The dialogues are crisp, the characters have a purpose and the plot moves fast. A Prison Without Locks is a terrifying story that you should read if you love horror and scary stories.–Rabia Tanveer for Readers’ Favorite

Feathered Quill raves about A Prison Without Locks

As a girl who grew up in one of those so-called “quaint hamlets” out there, they have personally always brought me nightmares. Although you might think they’re lovely to live in, this book actually sums them up perfectly; from the gossip mongers to the people you know who have a secret buried and you find them at bit scary to talk to, yet they’re always around.

We first meet Marlene Bourke-White. This is a journalist not taken seriously because she works for JRW, a company that’s not seen as a “real” publishing force because the news they print is in the realm of entertainment and celebrity stories. Thus, Marlene decides it’s time to attempt writing her first book. Of course, as all writers know, we have to have a subject before being able to pen a great novel, which Marlene just happens to find in the strangest of places.

A woman she works with and eats lunch with quite often, Tammy Russo, has told Marlene stories about her odd hometown. Tammy grew up in Wawarsing, a quaint hamlet in Upstate New York that has experienced everything from anemia to strange disappearances that seem to occur at an alarming rate. Although nothing has been enticing to Marlene as of yet, one day Tammy comes back with a story that just has to be written.

Readers find themselves transported to the Witch’s Hole State Forest in the village of Wawarsing. Everybody from local fly-fishermen to visiting hikers, tourists, and sightseers come here to gaze upon Stony Kill Falls. A major attraction for the area, the Falls top out at 87-feet, which is one reason why Wawarsing is one of the most “hilly” towns in the Appalachian foothills. (The northernmost point lies in the legendary Catskills, the same area where The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was set.)

This one October morning, Bobby, an overnight stocker at the local Wegman’s, decides to head to Stony Kill for a little fly casting. What he finds there, however, is a lot more than just a hungry trout. A pasty-faced boy is standing behind the cascading water, and when Bobby calls out to him, this young man turns his head and makes a sound that upsets the entire mass of woodland creatures and sends Bobby running back to town for help.

Shea Calhoun, a good Irish Catholic boy (now 60) is the pastor of St. Mary’s & St. Andrew’s Church. He was the one who got citizens to attend services in the clapboard church once again after he worked hard upon his arrival to Wawarsing. Reviving the church built in 1850, he also has an “ear” from his past who he seeks advice from on baffling matters, such as the one that’s about to be presented to him.

Local doctor, Roger Pretorius, is from a wealthy family. He chose to practice medicine in this middle-of-nowhere town because of a tremor in his left hand, as well as other “idiosyncrasies” he collected from his time in Haiti long ago that he believed would be more easily hidden in a small town.

We have a deputy named Harry and a town sheriff named Grady Lassard, who likes to drink quite a bit and is one of two lovers that a local married woman enjoys. When these people descend on Stony Kill Falls, they not only find a boy looking like a zombie, but they also are eye-witnesses to a horrific howl the boy expels right before he up and disappears. No one can find him. Even stranger is the fact that Deputy Harry knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the kid they all just saw was the same person who was already found dead by woodcutters in the area.

And that’s just a taste of the story! The characters are numerous and represent every “human and their storefront” that can be found in every small town. Mary Jacobs is the nurse who knows all the gossip; Josie owns the local Pump N’ Munch Market and has her own interesting sex life. We meet Bean Blossom, the greengrocer; Pop, who owns the local butcher shop – you name it, the cast is all there.

Soon, out of the past comes a woman from the doctor’s life named Epiphany, who has a talent for being a sorceress. You also enter a basement that has a warning written in ancient Coptic that reads: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” You’ll also race down a tunnel that holds a small army of mannequins that will seriously shake you up. Is a bottle of Holy Water gonna cut it, here? You’ll have to read to find out.

The best way to sum this up is that it takes me at least three days to read a book – on a good week, that is. This one? I opened it to commence reading for the normal amount of time and got so enveloped in this tale by the end of Page 2, I quite literally did nothing but read for the rest of the day. Yes, there will be repercussions from that but, I guarantee, you’ll do the same.

Quill says: Surprises, revelations, a plot that sent shock waves through my system—this story is one I will never forget!– Amy Lignor for Feathered Quill

US review of Books loves A Prison Without Locks.
“There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t fear being closed in, fear being trapped in darkness, fear those fanciful monsters who cage us with fear itself.”

Ruggerio’s devilish novel asks a probing question: what are you afraid of? His story begins with a journalist writing of the events taking place in Wawarsing. It is a seemingly idyllic town that rests at the foot of the Catskills Mountains (of Sleepy Hollow fame) surrounded by Witch’s Hole State Forest. Something is happening to its residents, and strange, sinister occurrences have people on edge.

In the night, the dead are reborn under the watchful eye of the mysterious Doctor Roger Pretorius and his equally disturbing “rescued dwarf” and sidekick, Henry Howard Holmes. Pretorius resides in the old and presumably haunted mansion with a foreboding epithet proclaiming it as “a prison without locks.” Pretorius’s dark past reaches the town and endangers everyone. On the cusp of Halloween, a brutal winter storm ushers in these new dangers, threatening to trap the town’s residents. In an ultimate showdown, Father Shea Calhoun and Sister Beatrice work together with others to face the rising evil and try to stop it.

Horror novels come with expectations, and Ruggerio’s meets them. His Lovecraft-inspired tale includes the necessary (and predictable) tropes: an eerie town; malevolent, supernatural characters; spine-tingling sensations of what lurks in the dark; the macabre, demonic possessions; and the battle between good and evil. It is clear from reading just how much Ruggerio enjoyed writing this story, and he’s particularly effective at creating spooky, atmospheric settings and characters that lean toward Gothic horror. One example involves an old cow tunnel and a darkness that curls “away into endless obscurity.” Though the novel boasts a large cast, it’s still easy to follow the plot, which is filled with vivid and cinematic moments. Any horror novel fan will appreciate Ruggerio’s endeavor with this newest entry in the genre. Dylan Ward for US Review of Books.

A Prison Without Locks by David Ruggerio begins with the fateful words, “What frightens you?” They are spoken by Marlene Bourke-White, a journalist relaying a story told to her by her colleague Tammy from the small town of Wawarsing. Tammy has told Marlene a story that sent chills down her spine, and Marlene must write it down.

Located in upstate New York and near the place where The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is set, Wawarsing is a strange town with a high number of anemia cases and odd disappearances. The story begins with a local fisherman named Bobby, who finds a small boy standing under a waterfall. The boy seems lost, but the sounds coming from the pale and ghost-like figure frighten Bobby so much that he flees back to town to tell the sheriff. From this jumping-off point, Ruggerio introduces a cast of characters with all the quirks and personalities of a small town. There is Father Shea, the local priest, who lives in Martha Breadwell’s boarding house. There are Theo and his wife, Barbara, who is having an affair with the sheriff. Everyone in Wawarsing seems to know about the affair except for Theo. The list of characters goes on and on, from the creepy to the funny, and they all help bring Wawarsing to life.

It soon becomes clear that Dr. Pretorius is the one who brought the evil to the small town. Originally from the Appalachians, Dr. Pretorius came to Wawarsing by way of Haiti, where he learned more about the dark arts than about healing medicine. The doctor lives in a haunted mansion, and he is a trusted yet mysterious figure in the town. He has secretly been experimenting on his patients, something he did in Haiti. When the sheriff and Father Shea find the pale boy in the falls, they bring him to Dr. Pretorius, thinking that he could help the boy. But Dr. Pretorius is the reason the boy is a monster…

Ruggerio gives us a scary and hair-raising story about the thin division between life and death in his new horror novel, A Prison Without Locks. He gives a nod to classic tales such as Dracula and Frankenstein. The plot is fast-moving and easy to follow, although there are a number of quick-changing perspective jumps due to the large number of characters. However, the characters are likable and the plot comes to an exciting and satisfying conclusion involving a showdown between good and evil on Halloween.

Reviewed by Bobbie Peyton, San Francisco Book Review

Sublime Line: “A horror novel that gives you equal parts creepiness, sinister settings, and heart-pounding

A Prison Without Locks is a novel in the horror genre set in a small New York town where residents are disappearing and the local doctor has deep, dark secrets. This book has its fair share of heart-pounding moments, when the creepiest of creatures are combined with the scariest of circumstances to create a story that reminded me of watching nail-biting horror movies in a cinema. The author has a talent for writing good descriptions and settings, and he builds enough action into the plot to keep the reader interested. The small-town setting helps to give a dark and creepy feeling to this story about a malevolent doctor and his work with the undead.