Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How Dear the Dawn by Marc Eliot (1987): Have You Ever Heard of a Vampire?

This cover art for a paperback unknown to me till just a couple weeks ago is by the same artist who produced one of the greatest horror movie posters of all time: Herzog's 1979 remake of Nosferatu, the American illustrator David Palladini. So when I found How Dear the Dawn (Ballantine/Aug 1987) for sale during a random eBay search, I was instantly captivated by that cover art and that not unpoetic title. Didn't know who Marc Eliot was (my Google-fu served me well on that endeavor though: it is a pseudonym of Dave Pedneau [1947 - 1990]) but that didn't matter; I bought a copy immediately and dove in. For as one character improbably, impossibly, unbelievably, asks another, "Have you ever heard of a vampire?" Why yes, yes I have heard of a vampire! I suppose this is the book for me.

Once you get past the creepy cool heraldic and relevant imagery of the arty cover, though, you read the copy front and back then realize it's about as horror clichéd as horror cliché can get; virtually every phrase could be applied to one million horror novels, approximate. This one isn't that bad though: Eliot/Pedneau is a competent enough writer, slick even, occasionally producing an apt or unexpected image or bit of dialogue, and evokes enough of the Southern American coastline, its landscape and its weather, to lend some welcome atmosphere, but the logistics and the pacing of his tale are standard B-movie style. You'll gape in disbelief as a woman, concerned about her missing friend, is asked out by the cop who arrives to investigate (and she says yes! And they become the two main characters so you have to root for them!).

How Dear the Dawn is an unpretentious little novel, not 300 pages, of old-school vampire horror: no long-winded backstory to jam up the narrative flow nor any upending of accepted supernatural mythologies (interestingly the myth of the vampire is  presented by one character as a subset of the zombie). I dug how the head vamp, Sterg LeVeau, demands obeisance from his cohorts and gets really mad at the first woman he first bites after his reawakening because she keeps killing her prey—causing them to come back as vampires themselves of course—rather than just feeding on their blood. Ugh, noobs.

Scenes of throat-ripping gore and decay mingle with steamy if straightforward vampire eroticism; characters are perfunctory but individualized; dialogue is not embarrassing for the most part. All in all, not a bad vamp book at all. If only Pedneau had lived to write some sequels: How Nice the Night, How Mournful the Moon, How Horrible the Hunger...

On this wet, stormy night, they were to hunt as one, and she was to learn to sate her gnawing obsession without killing. Jo Ann, so new to her state, could not fathom LeVeau's reluctance to claim their puny lives. To her, they were pathetic creatures, livestock to be bled for sustenance. And the sensation she experienced in the process was ultra-orgasmic It reached its pinnacle at that moment when life ebbed from their bodies.... That her victims rose to become as she was, to her, a Mephistophelian magnificence. She yearned to spread her hellish splendor over the face of the Earth... Clad now in a black, mildewed dress she had found in a closet, she stood before a window, the flashes of lightning illuminating her fierce face. With each passing moment she became more rapacious...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Then I Took Out My Razor Blade Then I Did What God Forbade

I'm loving both these covers, I'm guessing from the early 1980s by the Warner Books cover prices, for Bob Ottum's 1976 thriller The Tuesday Blade. I don't know anything about the book except for what I learned online: sounds like Kirkus didn't give a shit ("It is to blench—line your stomach with Maalox before putting it in a sling") and an anonymous Yahoo reviewer says it ruined her for other books ("as long as I don't have to go through the 'Tuesday Blade ending syndrome' again.... I might wish it on an enemy"). Yikes. Don't it make you feel sick? 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Horror Fiction Help XIV

Here are some recent emails I've received from horror fans trying to find forgotten books! Any help much appreciated...

1. A vet gets involved with a black magic group including a man tattooed with the tree of life. UK paperback cover pictured the tattoo.

2. A man imports a hyena for his sick son which escapes and causes havoc in the city....I thought this was Graham Masterton but it does not fit any of his titles. Found!
3. A man who has grown up with magic and becomes of high flyer in a secret society... early on I remember that he goes to Sweden? for a meeting and takes a sauna, later he takes over the former mistress of another cultist.

4. 1970s novel (sci-fi/horror) has to do with some space arachnid. Cover shows a window washer (high up on a skyscraper) coming face to face with some sort of alien spider humanoid thing (presumably from outer space). I'm guessing it's from the late 60s or early 70s, because of when I read it and the sexual content (I got it out of our local library when I was a kid). Found!

5. It was 'satanic horror' but pretty mild. As best I can recall the main protagonist was a man who fell in love with a young woman with a mysterious past. There some lingering threat... something to do with her father and the place she'd grown up. The only solid memory I have is that there is a trunk that holds some key to the mysteries of the past. It isn't until the end of the book that the protagonist manages to open it and know the contents. They reveal that the father and daughter had had an incestuous relationship and that they'd worshiped Satan/devils/demons.  At the end of the book the girl has gone missing, as completion of some pact the father had made (I think). Found!

6. I never read the stories but heard them from a kid in my class at school way back around 1979, so don't know if they are from magazines, pulp comics or just urban legends/folklore.  
The first story may be called 'Night of the Black Weasel' or 'Black Night of the Weasel'. It's about a hiker travelling on foot along an isolated forest road who meets a traveller along the route. The hiker is alarmed to see the traveler has jet black eyes and weasel like features. My memory of what happens next is a little fuzzy but I think it culminates in a chase or fight, resulting in the hiker being decapitated by the demon traveler with an axe or hatchet. The missing hiker's head is eventually found with the hatchet/axe embedded in it and on closer scrutiny the words "beware the night of the black weasel" are found engraved on the blade. Does this ring any bells?  
The second story is set in an amusement park or carnival. A series of gruesome murders takes place inside a dark ride ghost train. Someone or something is beheading the passengers! When the ride is investigated nothing can be found to suggest what could have caused the deaths. Eventually it transpires a deranged circus trapeze artist has been hanging upside down from the rafters of the dark ride interior and dispatching the riders with a sword as their train passes underneath.
8. Trying to remember the author and title of a story I read in the late 70s which still has the best opening line of any short story I have ever encountered: "When Deidra came out of her grave, it was raining outside." Sound familiar to anyone? Its about a teeny-bopper ghoul.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

So Don't Play with Me

A thoughtful TMHF reader has sent me some scans of his old horror paperback collection, graciously allowing me to post some of them here. Had to post this one immediately. I don't know who author Bob Veder is, nor have I ever seen his 1980 novel Playing with Fire (Pocket Books/May 1983) before. But that cover art... that cover art. Truly some of the most absurd I've ever witnessed. So specific I have to wonder if actual cookies are a story element. Delicious!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Meet the New Blood, Same As the Old Blood

Theirs was a hideous secret. To keep it they needed new blood. Without it they would be lost. All of them. And so they set the trap.

The place was called Credence. A pleasant country town, set well away from, anywhere. For Clay and Holly Ryan, in search of a new home away from the city, it was a dream come true. But then the stranger came with the haunting memories of black rivers of violent death. And for Clay and Holly, Credence suddenly becomes a whirlwind of blood and terror as the hunt is on