I haven't read word one of Ruby Jean Jensen's paperback original horror novels of the 1980s, published by Zebra Books (Z for dead last) and I probably won't ever. But I have to give props to whoever was doing her book covers back in the day because these are some freaky and unsettling images. I think my favorite is the above Home Sweet Home (ugh, really?) from 1985, which adds some bloodshot eyeballs to one-up Mrs. Bates. And boy do I love skulls with hair!
Baby Dolly (1991) Evil babies and dolls! They were everywhere in this era. But of course. The delightful Little Miss Zombie has a review here.
Lost and Found (1990) Another staple of '80s horror, the utterly generic title. I kinda like this cover, actually. Is she an albino or a statue come to life? Who knows but I find the pinpoints of light for eyes wonderfully malevolent.
Wait and See (1986) Gotdamn you have to admit eyeballs in skulls are effin' terrifying. But the hair overplays the hand, as it were. You just gotta laugh, right? Right?
Best Friends (1985) Now we even have animal skulls. I heard this in my head as a kid would say it, Best Fwends. I think a very young Andy Richter modeled for this one.
Chain Letter (1987) reminds me of a story I wrote when I was 12 about a newspaper boy who gets run over by a drunk driver; the driver rushes home without reporting the accident and tries to shrug it off, doesn't report the crime. Of course said drunk driver is also a subscriber to the newspaper so he's awakened later that night when his doorbell rings and he answers it to find.... well, you figure it out.
Smoke (1987) leaves me pretty underwhelmed because that's not really smoke, is it? It's like a green fog that will turn into a genie any minute. At least the artist is reading the books he's designing the covers for.
Victoria (1990) gives us two more dolls bent on evil. Or just one? Oh, I don't know.
Yes, they're utterly ridiculous and anyone over the age of 13 caught reading one should die of embarrassment but they really capture the essence of paperback horror originals that took up so much rack space in bookstores, drugstores, grocery checkout lanes (I can still recall one of a skeleton kid on a trike with a shiver), only to turn up at yard sales and thrift stores worn out and ready to fall apart. Undiscerning readers would trade these in for credit at the used bookstore I worked at and yes, I looked down my nose upon them while I eagerly devoured the latest King, Barker, Kathe Koja, Skipp and Spector, Brian Hodge, Joe Lansdale, Hot Blood, Borderlands, or Splatterpunks anthology. I couldn't be bothered with these retrograde sub-literate "novels." Snob, you say? Who, moi?