Smutty Sundays

Reading Richard Laymon

Back in the 1970’s, my cousin and his wife lived in a run-down trailer in a rural part of the upper county where I would sometimes babysit their kids. My cousin’s wife, a dead ringer for Michelle Pfeiffer with enviable Farrah hair, loved to read, her taste leaning toward the sleaziest horror and true crime books. I spent many hours poring through her stack of paperbacks that included tales of killer kidnappings, rape scenes involving hapless pregnant hitchhikers in vast Oregon landscapes, a teenage mom whose baby was eaten by the family dog, and a fictional work (I can only hope) involving incest that was too grammatically challenged for even my thirteen-year-old sensibilities.

One memorable babysitting episode involved me reading some trashy “novel” while my cousin’s hound dog gave birth to a litter in the chair next to me, forcing me to put down the book about a family changed into demons inside a grain silo (if anyone remembers the title I’ll be eternally grateful) and play doggie midwife. Those babysitting nights alone in the trailer seeped into my nightmares and gave me a sleazy thrill, like the times I’d stay too late at the drive-in when “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was the feature presentation, and the really creepy stuff would play after midnight. There were no trigger warnings in the 1970’s, and thus Trip With The Teacher became unfortunately seared into my teenage memory.

Reading Richard Laymon  (this is my second time at the rodeo) gets me back in touch with that sick part of me that enjoys reading trash, but it also reminds me where to draw the line. I read The Cellar a few months ago, and as much as I love paperbacks from hell, the scenes from the rapist’s POV made me swear off Richard Laymon for good. But when my YouTube buddy, Peter Monn, included Laymon’s Endless Night in his popular Peter’s Book Club, I decided to give the prince of sleaze another try.

The book starts out good and scary when nubile (of course) teenager Jody’s sleepover at a friend’s house is interrupted by a crew of killers, known as the Krull, who break into the house wearing previous victims’ skins and start massacring everyone in sight. After Jody and her friend’s kid brother, Andy, manage to escape the Krull crew in a heart-stopping chase scene, the POV switches to one of the killer’s and that’s when Laymon really finds his writer’s “voice.” What follows are graphic descriptions of rapes and murders with a disturbing emphasis on the teenage victims’ suffering and lingerie. The word “panties” appears in the text a bit too often for comfort. Nipples run a close second.

I love a good, sleazy scare as much as the next horror hound, but there is something about Laymon’s work that goes too far, which is probably why he has such a loyal following.

I suppose his work gives a certain cheap thrill; I can’t say I’m a fan. Still, for the remains of this Sunday afternoon I’m reading The Endless Night till the bitter end. Then I’m taking a bath.

Postscript: I finished the book. The climax (hate to use that word) was even sleazier than I anticipated. I think I’ll pass on this author from now on.

Rub-a-Dub-Dub-Dub, a knife in the tube.

Pure Joy Straight from Hell

Lilly checking out the killer dog sub-genre.

Paperbacks From Hell – Book Review

It was with great anticipation that I pre-ordered Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix after seeing it mentioned on one of my favorite blogs Too Much Horror Fiction (webmaster Will Errickson writes the afterword and provided a lot of the spectacular cover art from his personal collection). I dedicated a weekend to plunging into this Quirk Books release, and it far exceeded my expectations on every level. Continue reading “Pure Joy Straight from Hell”

Indie Horror Review #5

Blue Meat Blues by Joshua McGrath

In my quest for finding indie (self-published) horror novels to review, I consulted a list on Goodreads and deliberately chose the book with the least reviews and the weirdest cover–I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog. I checked out the author’s profile page and see that his photo resembles a brooding Rive Gauche intellectual. Sold!

I ordered the printed book (I don’t Kindle) and dug into this love letter to misanthropy. A cocktail of sociopathy and vague spiritual ennui. A dumpster full of human meat with high hopes.

The writer gives the done to death dystopian genre a fresh twist by creating a very unique picture of futuristic horror. This mise en scene depicts a world encased in waves of tar—that shit burns and lingers on the skin and seems to have its own life: a churning, creeping hunger. The survivors of this new world: a hierarchy of ferals, smoothies, and slaves, are as altered as the landscape we assume was once earth. They cling to a remembered humanity of sorts, although they are not quite human–perhaps their flesh is only an organic breeding ground for a new life form. Whatever it is, it’s ugly. There’s hair too, growing in the ocean—something organic, some strange glowing fiber optics of the future?
Continue reading “Indie Horror Review #5”

Space Wedding

spacewedding“Caw! Caw!” Esmeralda screeched in a whoosh of flapping rainbow feathers, retreating to a dark corner of the embattled shuttle.

“If that damn bird doesn’t can it I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” Lester shot a lethal glance across the bridge at Cabe.

Cabe wrenched the throttle out of a near spin. The altitude indicator flashed with red alarm.

“She’s only responding with good sense like any normal person would.”

“She’s not a person,” Cabe steadied the nose and cruised for a few peaceful seconds till they hit an air pocket and dropped 5000 meters, nearly taking Lester’s lunch with it.

“Jesus mate!”

“You know a better way?”

“Jesus mate!” The parrot squawked, landing on Lester’s shoulder.

Cabe pulled the nose up to cruising altitude. The shuttle floated gently in a darkening sky. Star showers twinkled in the distance, and below them the planet Nazar simmered in a hostile glow of red vapors. Continue reading “Space Wedding”

Indie Horror Fiction Review #1


Sickness in Hell by Tarl Warwick

While spinning down the post-election rabbit hole (yes, I voted for Hillary), I decided to take a trip to the dark side of underground news. A search for the term alt-right led me to a young, youtube philosopher, one Styxhexenhammer666, and despite disagreeing with some of what he spouts (which he seems to do all day long, sometimes never changing out of his bathrobe), I am finding his channel a strange, and addictive, delight. Perhaps der junge occultist has cast a spell over me and his other 70,000 plus subscribers. It could be the glasses, but every time I watch one of his videos, I flash on the exorcist in Ken Russell’s The Devils–I hope the reformed Satanist is not offended. What I find interesting and refreshing about this prolific vlogger is his demonstrable talent for speaking off the cuff and very articulately. He covers a variety of topics from libertarian-leaning political views to horticultural, to trip reports (the philosopher stoned) to the occult, about which he appears legitimately knowledgeable.

He is also a writer; and because I am looking for indie horror novels to review I was curious to see if he writes as well as he speaks. So I helped fill his coffers a bit by purchasing his self-published novel Sickness in Hell: The Death of Mankind by Tarl Warwick (Styx’s real name I assume). The novel is a graphically depicted tale of what happens when the small town of Hillcrest becomes infected by toxic mushrooms via a tainted food processing plant and turns the population into mutating flesh-eating abominations at war with one another–Hell on earth. In one of his YouTube videos, he describes this story as something he began as a class assignment in his AP English class. I am instantly flashing on a few of my former students–black trench coats, high SAT scores, scowling behind their Stephen King novels like they wanted to murder me. Years later, I run into them at the neighborhood bar and everything’s cool. But back to Sickness in Hell. Considering the work’s origin, I was expecting juvenilia, and in a way, it does have a certain adolescent let’s see how far I can gross you out quality that I find distancing, but that is also the essence of the genre. I like a little more meat on my neighbor’s forearm when I’m chewing on it, although that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to like (enjoy is not the right word) about this story.

The protagonist, Germaine Wordsworth, and his sister, Dawn (for whom he has some incestuous yearning, gratefully not depicted) both become infected with the toxic chemicals. Germaine immediately turns into a mutated human who has an insatiable hunger that he satisfies on the spot by eating an equally infected hobo. Dawn responds to the infection by sprouting huge breasts and growing mushrooms out of her ass (spoiler: there is a lot of ass in this book). An explosion at the processing plant spreads the toxic fungi through the small town of Hillcrest, causing the citizens to become infected with the bizarre body mutation infection. Germaine and Dawn and a few other citizens including a funny old lady named Gran, stake out a citadel around a church to fight off other infected zombies. The story picks up when Satan himself appears along with my favorite character, an old witch who creates all kinds of necromantic hi-jinks. There is even a brief Candide-esque cultivate your own garden utopian reprieve before the dramatic Armageddon showdown at the end (a nice piece of writing depicts the harridan processing plant owner attacking the citadel as the Whore of Babylon on an 18-wheel chariot). Sprinkled in between the distended anuses and dangling labia (I’m not joking) is a bit of philosophy and some alchemy lessons.

As in any self-produced work, there is an expectation of rough spots that could benefit from a keen editor’s eye, and Sickness in Hell has its clunky moments, but overall what impressed me the most is the author’s wickedly sick sense a humor and attention to detail. The Satan character is particularly well-rendered in the comical tradition of Marlowe’s Mephistopheles. In the foreword of the book, the author describes emitting maniacal laughter while writing this. Well, I was right there with him. Maybe I have a diseased mind, but some of the passages made me laugh out loud, one-time blowing soy milk out my nostrils and all over the page, which is not a degradation considering the subject matter.

I am not easily offended, but I prefer the less is more variety of horror, so Sickness in Hell, although entertaining, is more comical than scary (at least for this reader). There are certainly fans of this genre, but the built-in flaw of splatterpunk is that by not holding anything back, there is little suspense built, and more problematic, a lack of humanity that makes the reader care and connect to the characters. I’d be interested in reading more mature works from Warwick that show the level of insight and intellect he expresses in his videos.

So if you can find sport in the intent of how far to the dark side a bright imagination can go, you will probably enjoy the sick laughs of Sickness in Hell. I hope Styx/Warwick continues to develop as a writer and an intellectual (maybe get out of the house once and awhile). I will continue to watch, fascinated.

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