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.

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Rub-a-Dub-Dub-Dub, a knife in the tube.
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Fifty Shades of Trash

I’m many years behind the times, I know, but after plowing through The Bestseller Code, which analyzes the plot structure of  Fifty Shades of Grey in detail as an illustration of what makes a book popular, I decided I’d better read it and find out more. I went to my local library and checked out a well-thumbed, dog-eared, and stained (ew!) copy and tore through it in a few days. In other words, this was research, people.

Reader, I liked it. I like trash, what can I say? I cut my literary teeth on The Carpetbaggers, Susann’s Valley of the Dolls and my personal favorite Once is Not Enough (it never is), and of course Peyton Place. And I’m happy to report that I’m  not the only one who appreciates the bad and the entertaining. Trash, like a good campy horror novel, has its place in my reading library, along with the leather-bound tomes of classic literature. I think a lot of readers are on the same page (no pun intended). I needed to flush out the wizards and orcs and lengthy iambics from my Tolkien marathon, and what better way than with some super popular—over 100 million sold!–erotic romance?

Continue reading “Fifty Shades of Trash”

For Entertainment Purposes Only

It was my desire to escape the clinging neuroses of the dour Ms. Tyler that made me reach for a purgative in the form of a trashy 80’s horror novel I found at my local used book store. Enter The Dragon by William Schoell. Aside from the fact that the image appears more lithedragonke an iguana than a creature whose rage burned hotter than the fires of Hell, but I do appreciate the scaly texture of the embossed 80’s era cover.  The Dragon tells an enormous  story that begins with a pre-historic prologue in New Mexico where a dragon monster, Ka Kuna, lives within the belly of an enormous desert mesa, El Lobo. Ka Kuna is no ordinary dragon, but a living-flesh computer that (feeds) off the energies of the human brain. Human sacrifice is part of the milieu–Cool!

Fast forward ten thousand plus years to where Eddie Drake, professional photographer and grieving widow, is convinced to join an old school chum, archeologist Lawrence Foster, on an excavation of….cue drum roll…the El Lobo mesa. Eager to put behind him the horror of his wife’s murder, Eddie takes the job despite his reservations about his egotistical friend who includes on the excavation team his bitter wife and his young mistress. The rest of the team is rounded out by a few cliché characters including the homely girl, the old man, and the black guy. As a reminder that 1989 was a more innocent time before the corrupting influence of political correctness (sarcasm intentional) racist and sexist language abounds (the characters not the author) . I must admit it took this reader back a bit; although nothing can offend a true horror fan. Continue reading “For Entertainment Purposes Only”

Why I Write (horror)

I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn; in fact, I suck at it. But I have to share how pleased I am to see positive reviews for my horror novel Unmasked. The development of this book has had a long history. Inspired by my youth spent reading trashy horror novels and watching TV Movies of the Weeks which were frequently occult themed, I decided to write a screenplay using a summer camp setting. I put a twist on the usual teenage slasher set-up by casting middle-aged characters with a gay protagonist at the helm. And speaking of twists, my novel has quite a few, and the fact that they’ve worked (so far) on my readers brings me (a sick) joy. I play with a lot of classic horror tropes: a Gothic mansion, a mad scientist, a whodunit, a glamorous villain, and spatters of sex and gore. To me, successful horror is the thrill of the Cyclone at Coney Island. I know what’s coming, but I want to ride it again and again.

unmasked-ad

Continue reading “Why I Write (horror)”

I wrote a novel. Now what?

It’s finished! It’s done! It’s on Amazon! Hurrah! Open the champagne! Does all that red wine I drank while I was writing it count?

There is no celebration. I don’t throw a party, and no one surprises me with one. Cue violins…

After much, much work, the damn thing is done. I finally hold the printed copy in my hand. There is a feeling of accomplishment, but also terror. I open it to a random page and notice that one sentence is missing a the. Even though I’ve been over it with a fine-tooth comb about twenty times, I’m sure there are more embarrassing errors. But then I’ve found similar ones in every Donna Tartt novel I’ve read. That thought comforts me, a little.

I send a copy to my mother. I warn her about the explicit content. She says she’s curious to see what’s really going on inside my mind. A few days later she says it’s a good idea I used a pen name. I shyly drop a copy off at my local bookstore. I meet a writer who tells me all about her book. I listen politely and forget all about mine. I run into a neighbor who tells me another neighbor has also written a book. It seems I’m surrounded by writers. You need to push yourself my husband tells me as we walk away. I’m quiet for the rest of the stroll, thinking about this friend of a friend who sent me a copy of his book to read and how I ended up blocking him because he became so aggressively persistent. Nothing is more annoying than the ABC (Always Be Closing) personality. To me, anyway. Perhaps that’s part of my resistance. Continue reading “I wrote a novel. Now what?”

Violets Are Blue by James Patterson

My first time with James…

About six months ago I signed up for the James Patterson Master Class on how to write a bestseller (I confess to not doing all of the homework assignments). I had just decided to write a novel based on one of my screenplays (65,000 words into the third draft, I’m still plugging away at it), and Patterson’s class seemed like a fun way to keep me inspired and to give me videos to watch when I felt blocked or just wanted to procrastinate.

I enjoyed the class. Mostly though, I enjoyed James Patterson, and after watching and re-watching many of the lessons, I came to regard him as a coach, and even–dare I say–a friend. I like his befuddled sense of humor, his positivity and message that you, yes, even YOU can write a bestseller and become rich like me. He’s cute! And nice! And he has a great laugh. I’d love to have drinks with him at the Algonquin sometime and really cut-up.

Continue reading “Violets Are Blue by James Patterson”

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Lord of Illusions

My unabashed crush on Clive Barker has run the gamut from fantasizing about wanting to talk dirty with him over tea to spawning his demon child. Yes, it goes that deep. How can I resist a handsome, Renaissance man who is an accomplished visual artist, a wordsmith extraordinaire, and a visionary film director who has a sexy English accent to boot!

Does he also play guitar? Sigh… Continue reading “The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker”

Primal Screams: Carrie by Stephen King

After the blood comes the boys.

Primal themes abound in the annals of horror and trash lit, but nowhere as dramatically as in Carrie by Stephen King. Part One of the novel, Blood Sport, begins with the infamous shower scene where chubby, pimply, colorless-haired, white trash Carrie White gets her period for the first time, releasing her latent telekinetic powers. It’s quite a set-up. In King’s excellent On Writing, he describes the eureka moment:

…I started seeing the opening scene of a story: girls showering in a locker room…And this one girl starts to have her period. Only she doesn’t know what it is, and the other girls—grossed out, horrified, amused—start pelting her with sanitary napkins…The girls begin to scream. All that blood! She thinks she’s dying, that the other girls are making fun of her even while she’s bleeding to death…she reacts…fights back…but how?  Continue reading “Primal Screams: Carrie by Stephen King”

My Return to Peyton Place

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
I discovered Peyton Place where I imagine most kids growing up in the 1960’s did: under my parents’ bed, where along with those soft focus Oui magazines, I discovered many a tasty morsel that would whet my appetite for my lifelong love of good trash lit!

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

On the back dust jacket cover was author Grace Metalious, “this Pandora in blue jeans” looking very young in her oversized dungarees and flannel shirt, feet up, staring intently at her typewriter, hard at work. This image was a stark contrast to the standard lady author’s portrait, and a realistic portrayal of a writer’s daily grind. Both the image and the tagline “the extraordinary new novel that lifts the lid off a small New England town” promised a peek into forbidden truths. Continue reading “My Return to Peyton Place”

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