Thursday, May 30, 2019

RIP Dennis Etchison (1943-2019)

Author and editor Dennis Etchison, whose finely-wrought, enigmatic tales of psychological horror were some of the best of the 1980s, has died at age 76. Born in Stockton, CA, he had deep roots in the genre and was mentored by writers like Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson. Etchison didn’t set out to be a horror writer. He has been referred to as a writer of “dark fantasy” or “quiet horror,” and in an interview with journalist Stanley Wiater in the book Dark Dreamers (1990), the author states that he found himself in the horror genre “sort of by accident.” Etchison began writing and publishing science fiction stories in the 1960s, but as the market for short genre fiction changed, he found his work gained more acceptance in the burgeoning horror fiction field of the 1970s.

Etchison is perhaps best described as a horror writer's horror writer: while prolific, he never achieved mainstream name recognition, but he was very highly respected by virtually every other horror writer working in the '80s and '90s. I discovered Etchison while I was still in high school with a copy of Red Dreams given to me by an aunt who also enjoyed horror paperbacks. However I was more taken at the time by his editorial skills; his 1986 anthology Cutting Edge was filled with mature, challenging, utterly weird and sometimes graphically violent stories by some of the best writers working then. Later I would become enamored of Etchison's unique talents when I read his first short story collection, 1984's Dark Country.

Etchison wrote novels like Shadow Man and California Gothic for the Dell Abyss line. A lifelong movie buff, Etchison studied film in college, and later produced many novelizations for horror films, including several Halloweens, Carpenter's Fog, and Cronenberg's Videodrome (under the pseudonym Jack Martin, which was also the name of one of his recurring protagonists). He assisted Stephen King with film references in King's classic 1981 nonfiction study Danse Macabre. His expert editorial skills were seen again in Masters of Darkness (1986-91) and MetaHorror (1992).

In the early 1990s Etchison was president of the Horror Writers Association. In later years he continued to write and adapted Rod Serling's original Twilight Zone scripts into radio dramas. Often nominated for various genre awards, he won many for his short fiction, and in 2016 was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the HWA. He was also, going by the remembrances on social media, a heckuva guy who will be much missed by the horror community.

Dennis Etchison 
(March 30, 1943 – May 28, 2019)

Friday, May 24, 2019

Carnosaur by Harry Adam Knight (1984): Bang a Gong Get It On

I can't imagine it'd surprise you to learn that I was a pretty mean dinosaur fanatic when I was a kid in the 1970s. Visits to the local library were never complete without a stack of books on these fantastic creatures. Most of these titles were from the '50s and '60s and out of date by the time I was reading them, illustrated by timid little black-and-white pencil sketches of tail-dragging creatures, but I still recall with great fondness two from that actual decade:

A family trip to New York's American Museum of Natural History when I was in second or third grade allowed me to see the immense fossils in person. Relatives would ask me to name the various dinos, which I could rattle off pretty easily (I could also do the same with classic monster movies thanks to the infamous Crestwood series). There was this early '70s model kit. Lots of plastic toys. Factor in the original King Kong, movies like The Land that Time Forgot, oh and especially the bottom-of-the-barrel TV movie The Last Dinosaur, with a drunk Richard Boone battling a Tyrannosaurus and other baddies in a land at the center of the earth. Or how about the actual Journey to the Center of the Earth? Or The Lost World? And who can forget Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder"? So. Yeah. Dinosaurs.

 
In 1993 I went to see Spielberg's adaptation of Jurassic Park twice the weekend it opened and was well rewarded: yep, that's the stuff I've been wanting to see since I was a kid. I even went to the mall afterwards and bought the T. Rex, the toy I had dreamed of all my childhood (just the right size have battled an alien or eaten a rebel!) and proudly displayed it in all my homes for over 20 years. All of this brings me to...

Harry Adam Knight was a pseudonym used for a small handful of pulp novels by John Brosnan (sometimes with the assist of Leroy Kettle), a prolific Australian author who also wrote nonfiction genre studies. A fleet-footed, old-fashioned thriller with plenty of gore, in the tradition of James Herbert, Carnosaur (Star Books, June 1984 UK/Bart Books, Feb 1989 US) is as solid a trashy paperback horror novel as one could want. Knight ticks all the boxes and doesn't muck about with the unnecessaries. This is pulp horror done right: mean, nasty, brutish, and short. Sometimes every character is so glum and rude you kinda think, Jeez, doesn't anyone have a nice polite word to say? Everyone's all Johnny Rotten all the time. Kill the lot of 'em. Unpleasant, ungrateful, folk fodder for the dinosaur. Right... now.

Our tale begins at 2:17 a.m. sharp when a poultry farmer is woken by his wife ("fat lazy cow" he thinks. See what I mean? What a turd) because their chickens are squawking up a ruckus. Of course, you're reading a book called Carnosaur so you know what's about to happen when Rudie McRuderson goes out to investigate. And it does. Then the action switches to two teens doing it in the backseat and it's more of the same, with some class-consciousness woven in as British pulp fiction seems to always do: "She'd been flattered to have been picked up by someone who was so upper-class. Well, sort of upper class."

Daytime: David Pascal is a late 20s guy working as a "journalist" at a newspaper that's barely a newspaper in the small English town of Warchester, "where nothing exciting ever happened." He's just dumped his wonderful girlfriend, a coworker named Jenny, because of his dreams of leaving for a job on a Fleet Street scandal rag. Who knows when that'll happen since those papers keep ignoring his applications. So here Pascal is, still working on a paper that's practically a local business flyer and having awkward moments with Jenny in the office. But you're reading a book called Carnosaur, so you know that Warchester is gonna offer up something soon that Fleet Street dared never dream.

Sir Darren Penward (erroneously referred to as "Sir Penward" throughout the novel) is Warchester's wealthy eccentric, the big-game hunter with his own personal zoo on his vast estate, filled with exotic and dangerous animals—including his ravenous nympho wife, Lady Jane. But again, you're reading a book called Carnosaur, and you know that Warchester will soon be under siege by animals much more exotic and dangerous than *yawn* tigers and panthers. The police begin their investigation, and Sir Penward blames the attacks on an escaped Siberian tiger. Pascal suspects a cover-up, and along with a reluctant Jenny, begins some investigation of his own. This leads him into the clutches of Lady Jane (aka Lady Fang, and looking "like something out of The Story of O"), well-known amongst the locals for her penchant of seducing younger men while her husband tends to his menagerie. Pascal realizes he can use her to get inside the zoo to peek around. That can't be a bad idea, can it?

Pascal has a confrontation with Penward in which all is revealed about how these extinct monsters are suddenly alive again: the painstaking genetic process that the obsessed Penward explains almost like a Bond villain, which leaves Pascal muttering, "Incredible. Chickens into dinosaurs." Brosnan's science when it comes to dinos sounds pretty spot-on to me from what I recall of more modern paleontology books, and the distinction between dinosaurs—terrestrial prehistoric creatures—and other ancient reptiles will prove more important than anyone but an actual scientist could imagine. But you're reading a book called Carnosaur so that shouldn't surprise you. I don't need to rehash the rest: Brosnan does nothing new with the plot—but that's entirely beside the point. This baby zips along with a confident rhythm and pacing precisely because the author doesn't try to add new twists or turns to his narrative (indeed I could have done with less "You've got to believe me, dinosaurs are in the streets, there's no time to explain!" but that is to quibble). Pulp is, in essence, comfort reading.

Brosnan, 1947-2005

Okay, okay, I'm getting to it: the "carno" part of the title. Well, gentle reader, you won't be disappointed. The residents of Warchester—the ones still alive—woke up to a world that was vastly different to the one they'd gone to sleep in. Brosnan serves up the grue that satisfies. Behold: Tarbosaurus, a T. Rex in everything but name, wreaks delightful havoc wherever it goes; Deinonychus, with its scythe-clawed foot that it uses like a prehistoric exponent of Kung-Fu, guts hapless farmers and other locals from neck to groin; and a plesiosaur joins a boating party that none of the invitees will soon forget: After a long, stunned silence a man's voice said, with an edge of hysteria to it, "Well, you've got to say one thing for good old Dickie; he sure throws a hell of a party..." Brosnan doesn't quite take it to ridiculous Dinosaur Attacks! levels, but pulp fans should still have plenty to chew on. Sex, violence, nerdy dino facts: Carnosaur has it all.

Above I mentioned Jurassic Park, and I can't leave this review without mentioning that Carnosaur features many facets that would become famous, indeed iconic, when Spielberg adapted Crichton's 1990 bestseller: chase scenes, close calls, and especially the scientific basis of resurrecting dinos are all first seen in this novel (itself adapted into a post-JP cheapie by Roger Corman). While I've never had much interest in Crichton's fiction, after reading this I feel I need to see if Crichton really did read a book called Carnosaur... or if it's simply a case of a great idea whose time had, like the dinosaurs, come again.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Eternities Lost to Darkness

I had never heard of Emergence (Avon Books, July 1981) when I found it in a bookstore a few months back, but I recognized the cover art as by the hand of Don Brautigam and bought it solely for that. Author Robert D. San Souci was an award-winning children's writer; he died in a sad accident just a few years ago. I held out some hope for the book because of his reputation, and while this work of Native American vengeance is told with lots of local New Mexico color and characterization, the mythological/horror elements don't have quite the power implied. I was more than halfway through when I realized nothing was happening.

Skipping ahead to the final chapters reveal an epic apocalyptic climax that is somehow muted, albeit a touch creepy. Just not enough of a touch. Emergence really could have been a work of overwhelming ancient horror, I really am fascinated by goddesses of death and destruction and the scholarly pursuit thereof, but San Souci couldn't quite twist the knife where it counts.

Despite a knowing depiction of teenage homosexuality and punk rock house parties, The Lake (Avon Books, Aug 1989, cover art by Jim Warren) is a YA novel—something about the back-cover typeface style screams it—and folks that is just not my jam. It was John Peyton Cooke's first novel, and he eventually moved on to crime writing. Again, it's not terrible: he writes clear, more than competent prose, but the witch story was one-dimensional and simplistic and could not keep my engagement very long. First few chapters were fine, teenage relationships are believable, but I absolutely have no interest in middle-school dialogue or shenanigans.

That said, other horror readers more sympathetic to this style might dig The Lake. Points for its nicely self-aware moments ("You tell me, you're the one that reads all those Stephen King novels") and especially the punk party held in a suburban home while the parents are away, man that really took me back. Too bad about the puke on that Clash t-shirt, now that's a collector's item.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Panther! by Alan Ryan (1981): The City is a Jungle and I'm a Beast

I don't know what kind of hopes I had for this Signet paperback original, featuring one of the great "animal attacks" covers of the era, a stunning tableau of Manhattan mayhem by the fantastic Tom Hallman. The late author Alan Ryan, a generally reliable editor and author, offers up his first novel Panther! with a solid set-up and serviceable prose and dialogue, but it all kind of puttered away to indifference for me. Fifteen panthers are brought by a rough'n'ready animal wrangler to NYC for a movie premiere—for a flick called Panther! of course—but they get loose and terrorize the city.

But it takes forever for this wonderful scenario to shift into gear and the panther kill scenes are printed in italics which makes it seem like they're taking place in some ethereal no-man's land and not on the mean streets of the city (I did like how one panther drags its victim into the doorway of the Russian Tea Room). It's all very straight-faced and square, lacking the pulp intensity, tastelessness, and energy of other novels of its ilk. This is one you buy for the cover art alone, alas.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Paperbacks from Hell Reprint Line from Valancourt Books is Here!

Great news everyone: Valancourt Books has just begun shipping out the first of five books in their reprint line of Paperbacks from Hell titles! It's The Nest, from 1980, and it even includes an introduction by me. I read and reviewed it back in 2014, and it's an honor to be a part of bringing such a shining example of pulp-horror back into print. Next up is Elizabeth Engstrom's When Darkness Loves Us, two novellas of heartbreaking horror and women's lives, with an intro by my partner in crime Grady Hendrix. We worked hard choosing titles, and we sometimes met disappointment when certain books were unavailable for reprinting. When possible the original cover art was used, and the books are mass market-sized too. Real quality stuff guys!

The next four titles will follow in the coming months: The Tribe by Bari Wood, The Spirit by Thomas Page, and The Reaping by Bernard Taylor (this last also has an intro by me). Be sure to visit the Valancourt Books page to subscribe to the series and have each book shipped to you as it is published and to learn all you need to know about the upcoming titles. Enjoy your time in HELL!


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Joyride by Stephen Crye (1983): Long After the Thrill of Living is Gone

Pity poor Robert James Atchison. Living in a California town known as America's preeminent burial ground, where the dead outnumber the living five thousand to one, he's a sensitive 17-year-old boy with a fondness for poetry, instilled in him by his dear departed mother, and he actually enjoys reading books like The Iliad for school. He may have good hair, vibrant eyes, and fine features, but all that's lost on his high school classmates: to them he's a gangly, awkward-limbed, tongue-tied goof who they've nicknamed "Coma Man" with an embarrassing crush on Carla, the prettiest girl in school. He's written Carla a poem and has two scarlet ribbons to give to her. What could go wrong?

And then there's Robert's widowed father, a cemetery caretaker paralyzed in a graveyard accident—sure, those things happen—is a raging bastard in a wheelchair who demands the same breakfast every morning at the same hour and wants Robert to continue the family tradition of being a raging bastard cemetery caretaker. But one morning Robert has had enough. He's had more than enough: I won't let him make me dead inside... I just want to live a normal life.

This 1983 paperback original from Pinnacle, one of the mainstay publishers of the era, is nothing more nor less than a slasher flick in book form. Joyride, by Stephen Crye (according to a post on Goodreads, the pseudonym of a Ronald Patrick, who also wrote a previous Pinnacle novel from 1978 called Beyond the Threshold). And while I'm no slasher fan—it's one of my least favorite types of horror—I have to say Joyride is a competent, no-frills novel that does what it does perfectly well. If it ain't Halloween, it's at least The Burning. Uncut.

You can see the setup cinematically: a group of dumb, horny, wise-cracking, junk-food-snarfing teenagers cruising around looking for a place to party one night ignores a No Trespassing sign outside the gates of All Saints Hill Cemetery and drives on in. Yep, that's the cemetery that our pal poor Robert is caretaker of; he's been living there in the years since high school, after lying to officials that he had an adult guardian staying with him. Nope. And ever since a tragic last-day-of-school fireworks accident—sure, those things happen—Robert has festered with his scars, both mental and physical, in this cemetery, dreaming his dreams of his high school princess and of vengeance:

He wondered if any of them really understood how deeply he had suffered because of their cruelty... how he had been forced to retreat into the loneliness and despair of total isolation just to avoid the endless succession of humiliating stares from people who could never understand... how he had thought of killing himself at least a thousand times since the accident...

Pinnacle, 1978

In his fevered mind, the killer thinks one of the girls, Priscilla, is his old teenage sweetheart Car-r-r-r-la, so after he burns her boyfriend alive he stuffs her in a sepulcher, hoping to teach her to love him. Don't make me hurt you, you made me do it, I didn't mean to hurt you, Cleats is thinking, a thought process which should surprise absolutely no one. He's also stalking her friends, wandering about in the cemetery and who by now have discovered the gates have been locked again and are too high to climb over. The kids get dead in various ways, as Robert—now dubbed "Cleats" because of, you know, his shoes—goes after them with various cemetery caretaking implements. The kills are graphic but not too graphic, just like in an R-rated flick: The blade cut deep into his skull, splitting it down the center like a ripe melon.

The fat kid (I didn't say there was a fat kid? there's a fat kid) who is of course called Twinkie, ends up searching for help in the caretaker house (why doesn't he look for a phone) and there finds an old gentleman sitting alone at a dining room table. Stepping forward, he craned his head around the edge of the chair to meet the eyes of the man who would liberate him from the clutches of All Saints Hill. Ah, can't you guess what's coming? Some final kids are left for the face-off in the time-honored slasher tradition, when the killer seems to be everywhere at once.

Sphere 1982. Sweeet Christ
(also: I feel like this is a still from maybe a British '70s horror...?)

At times Crye is tedious in his descriptions of dumb teens in a panic—Pleeeese don't kill me, oh my god oh my god, he's coming back! I hope he kills me fast I mean you can see EC Comics speech balloons—but occasionally he writes a passage like A shimmering mosaic of buttery morning sunlight filtered through the checkerboard of dusty windowpanes or Priscilla had eased her mind into a state of suspended rationality that others, for wont of a clearer understanding of her despair, would call madness and you'll be glad for it. I found the high school flashbacks more interesting than the teens flailing away in the cemetery more engaging, so I'll be honest and say I did skim some pages but I don't think I missed much.

Joyride is not original and doesn't intend to be anyway, but nor is it terrible at all: I've read more original novels that were worse-written, unreadable and charmless. At 250 pages, Joyride is brief and mostly brisk, won't insult your intelligence, and you can read it in a weekend. It's a tasty, mindless little morsel of slasher mayhem. Oh, and that glorious cover art at the top by Sonja Lamut and Nenad Jakesovic? Yeah that's in the book! O joy indeed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Spook by Steve Vance (1989): The Day the World Turned Day-Glo

Neon was a popular genre paperback coloring for titles and cover art in the very early '90s, I can remember authors as varied as Joseph Citro and Iain Banks having their books adorned with it. Vaguely psychedelic, but also kinda cheap, these Day-Glo colors glaring out at your from the shelves. I guess you almost had to pick 'em  up, though, didn't you? And if you picked up Spook (Berkley Books, Nov 1991) back in the day and flipped it open expecting to see some more eye-penetrating imagery, you'd get instead:

Yep, critical blurbs in place of stepback art. So weird. And yet, Spook offers nothing but that toothy skull and neon typeface. Author Steve Vance has written other horror novels but I can't imagine reading any of them. This is really one of the most nothing books I've read in some time, and while I was intrigued by one aspect of the narrative—failed artist seeks vengeance on the man who impregnated her with the titular "spook"—this aspect should have been most of the story. Instead we get hohum romance, indistinguishable cops, a slackly-characterized protagonist, and a cast of the most obnoxious, tedious teenage morons you ever saw. The whole shebang is here on the back:

"Spellbinding"? Hardly. Vance can write, I guess, and you can tell he wants to produce a serious horror/thriller novel, but he has absolutely no sense of pacing, POV, dialogue, suspense, chills or thrills—you know, all the reasons you read. Maybe if he'd used this as a first draft and then broke the novel down into individual parts and reassembled it, making his backstory the story or something. The twist is good, but I feel the book was reverse-engineered from it. 

 
But I kept waiting for something, anything, to alleviate my lack of interest; it never came. I didn't find the book stupid or insulting, crass or tacky or inept like other bad horror novels; I found it utterly unengaging, devoid of almost anything unique, fresh, inventive. There's no there there. Even though I finished Spook, I have to recommend you keep far, far away from it—If you're smart, you'll keep your distance. As for reading Vance's other novels, I don't think that day will ever come.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Child of Hell by William Dobson (1982): Flaming Youth

...the elemental passion that forever rumbled in his belly: 
the delight in the mystical properties of flame, its godlike destructiveness, 
its leaping, growing, consuming might.

With cover art that is a near-perfect example of vintage paperback horror fiction, this slim volume from Signet Books is adorned by one of artist Tom Hallman's most dramatically lurid images, bowl-cut notwithstanding. Love how the firelight is reflected in his eyes, a nice derangement of the senses. Dig the menace of the title, Child of Hell, and its glorious ITC Benguiat typeface, stark and unmissable against an inky black background. William Dobson is a perfectly non-descript name (a pseudonym too). Yep, creepy kid, similarity to a previous bestseller (King's Firestarter of course), typeface and tagline—all that's missing is a comparison to The Other or Rosemary's Baby!

Dobson is the pen name of British writer Michael Butterworth (copyright is under this name). Under this name he published Fangs, The Child Player, and The Ripper, all early '80s and also from Signet.  Unfortunately there are two British writers name Michael Butterworth so parsing between the two was tricky, but I'm pretty sure this Butterworth was also a writer of crime thrillers and comic books, while the other Butterworth was a New Wave science fiction publisher and author. Our Butterworth died in 1986 at age 62.

With those bibliographic deets out of the way, let's discuss. Less a horror novel than a psychological potboiler with some very graphic scenes of pyromaniacal mayhem, Child of Hell isn't really about a child at all (thank ye gods), although the novel begins with a little boy of just seven burning down his house with his family inside on Christmas in the non-descript American town of Midchester. Good heavens, why? Well, because instead of the super-cool radio-controlled model fighter plane he asked, his folks ripped him off with a goddamn cheapo jigsaw puzzle! The discarded wrapping paper smolders in the ash of the dying living room fire and then catches on the Christmas tree branches and*poof*—fire!... and little Davie Fosset runs outside and along with horrified neighbors, watches his family burn to death unable to escape.

When he heard their screams—and they screamed till they died, 
and they died neither soon nor easily—he only grinned.

Jeff Angel is a young family man and a firefighter on the rise; while Little Davie is setting his family home alight, the firefighters are have a literal ball. Jeff is chatted up by a delightful woman named Marie, and they argue wittily about the Mad Arsonist, who's been lighting up Midchester for two years now. What motivates him? What's his background? How can he be caught, and how should he be punished? This conversation, as well as the ball itself, is interrupted by the blaze at the Fossets', and Angel is off to fight this war he can never win.

Arriving on the scene and finds ambulance nurse Janice Hooper comforting the young survivor. Now Janice nursed neither a motherly nor a platonic regard for the young rookie fireman, and Dobson neatly sets up some romantic interests for our ostensible hero within the first 10 pages. Then Janice hears the boy mutter that weirdo phrase again: goddamned cheapo jigsaw puzzle...

As I said, Child of Hell isn't exactly about a child: Dobson allows Davie to grow up as the novel progresses, and it's a solid narrative arc I think. He's adopted by an older preacher and his wife, Marvin and Teresa Allaun; they're strict adherents of the severe religion that founded the town, the Church of the Lonely Wanderers. One night at dinner our incipient maniac admits—"Speak out straight, lad"—that he wants to be a fireman when he grows up! O irony, like fire, you are an elemental force of the universe.

Then we follow Dave through grade school and college, with terrible glimpses of his fire mania and growing hatred toward the women who reject him. When making a date, he mutters to himself, You'd better be there, you little prick-teasing bitch, or you'll be goddamn sorry. He traps vagrants in abandoned buildings and then sets them alight.

He watched it all from the shadows beyond the inferno, and gloried in what he was doing, had done, and not with any unholy mirth, but with an awe and wonder at the power that lay in his hands.

Other than those personality tics, Dave grows into a fine upstanding fellow.

Meanwhile, Jeff Angel has married Marie, and they plan to start a family. Jeff's work is paramount, though, and Dobson gets into some police and firefighter politics, with chiefs and officers and all that, filler to make a fuller novel; not boring exactly but not always my favorite type of reading unless handled by a master. With pressure from various city muckety-mucks, the firefighters are determined to catch this arsonist, but Angel often thought that at his retirement party and presentation, he would be handing over the arsonist's dossier to his successor...

About halfway through the novel Dobson sets up a major setpiece of conflagratory terror, hearkening to the climax of Carrie. It's epic, cruel, horrifying. Debby Shearer, the belle of the Armadillo Country Club, is having her nineteenth birthday party there. Our Dave has become a busboy/waiter/bartender there, and even though he is of the lower classes, Debby has her eye on him—and seduces our pyro easily. Thinking of herself as a highborn lady of the eighteenth century, she knows she can take a lover beneath her station and is hidebound neither by convention nor by the acclaim of disapproval of the mob. But she certainly won't marry him... Yes, she's a terrible snob, and you know what happens to snobs in books like these.

And so Child of Hell progresses, twining the stories of Fosset and Angel as they move through normal life, its ups and downs, and the madness of one and the determination of the other. Characterization is economic but believable; there is even some early serial-killer profiling, as Janice reappears in Jeff's world and tries to assist in the identification and capture of the Mad Arson. Was it feasible that a child of six or seven would deliberately destroy his own family by fire, then go on to commit fourteen years of dedicated arson and murder? The mind recoiled away from it. And yet... and yet...

Dobson writes well enough, his dialogue doesn't distract (at times it sounds a little plummy),  and his ability to generate suspense is laudable. I did though notice a few particulars that either made me wince or laugh. His sex scenes, well, he's the kind of writer who uses the phrases "amatory vocabulary" and "couplings" and even, god save us, "darling." More distressing is the appearance, albeit brief, of  sibling incest, almost as if paperback horror contracts of the '80s were written with an ironclad clause that could not be unheeded. I had a chuckle at Dobson's failure to convince me he knew anything about America.

You'll be happy to hear I've not even mentioned all of the twists and turns and shocks that make up the entirety of this barely 200-page novel. Dobson is great at scenes of fiery destruction, at depicting Dave's psychopathic desires that he can suppress for a time—he even meets a nice girl! the killer fell in love at first sight—but oh how it can't be denied.When Dave lights up a theater full of retirees at a matinee, he sits eating a burger and watches it burn, in the curious amalgam of tension and relaxation, of cold-bloodedness and erotic excitement that informed his excursions into death, disfigurement, and destruction. As a fireman, how can he ever be suspected? How can he ever be found out? Dave Fosset has the perfect cover. Yes, Child of Hell brings the goods, hot and ready for you.

And speaking of perfect covers...

Paperbacks from Hell table of contents

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Richard Matheson Born of Man and Woman on This Date, 1926

The legendary Richard Matheson was born on February 20, 1926 and died on June 23, 2016. To mark the occasion I present to you this interview with him from Douglas E. Winter's indispensable nonfiction work Faces of Fear: Encounters with the Creators of Modern Horror (Berkley Books, Nov 1985). I think you'll find Matheson's thoughts on his writing career and life enlightening indeed. Click to embiggen and enjoy.