Thursday, December 28, 2017

Descent by Ron Dee (1991): A Child's Dream of Death

Not even Dell's ambitious Abyss line of horror fiction could avoid the dregs of the genre: Ron Dee's second title for the imprint, Descent (October 1991) is indescribably awful, incoherent, at once over- and underwrought. You can't imagine the Sisyphean task it was to trudge through this novel. From the very first sentence—perhaps even before, as you'll see in a sec—"Suck (ha I shoulda seen it coming) away my death and bring me alive. Lose your self and I arrive." Good God I was groaning inside instantly ("They threw me off the hay truck about noon" it ain't). I'd put the book down after struggling through a few pages, then pick it up again, ad nauseam, hoping against hope something could be salvaged...

But my original instinct was correct: this is unreadable amateur garbage, confusing and clumsy from the first. Peopled by angry, incomprehensible, and whining "characters" who talk of needing and wanting death and sex, how death is life and vice versa, Descent is irritating beyond belief. There is no pacing, no suspense, no humanity here, not to mention any scares at all. Its po-faced religious imagery is ludicrous. I wish I could joke about it all but nope, I'm getting angry about it all over again.

Descent engages in one of my least favorite endeavors in literature: the creation of a fictional rock star. Here, it's a dude who goes by the stage name Aliester "Yeah that's not how it's spelled" C. The novel's epigraph is a sampling of the author's "lyrics" for Aliester, and read like a fundamentalist Christian's (or maybe the PMRC's) imaginings of what Alice Cooper or King Diamond or Venom or whoever were singing back in the day. "To know true life you have to fuck death," Aliester says from the stage, a witless ripoff of Udo Kier in Warhol's Frankenstein; I mean if you're gonna omit the kicker, why bother? He engages in all sorts of Cooper-esque show-biz shenanigans (ostensibly the time period is the early or mid-'70s), then a crazy hot chick appears on stage with him and gets bloody and is it all real or a dream or special effects or...?

Her long fingernails stabbed both breasts, making them bleed freely. Aliester's eyes were round. He saw her perfect nakedness and gulped (what kind of rock star gulps at the sight of a naked woman?!), even harder as he saw her purpose: the sharp nails tore slowly down from the base of her rib cage to her pubic hair with a wet tearing scream, flaunting her ghastly whit bones and pink organs as they peeked out and shimmered with her giggle (can we this word from the world?!). "Fuck off with life—and fuck with DEATH!"

Dee's first novel for Abyss, dare I...?

Aliester gets mixed up with Vickie, our protagonist, somehow, and her grief over her stillborn child plays out over the whole novel, which in capable hands could have been effective; here it is only tacky tasteless first-draft hackery. Graphic violence, most of it sexual, is unbelievable and bears no referent to our shared inhabited reality—that is, none of the violence hurts or unsettles; it is, to use an actual metal lyric, a child's dream of death. It means nothing because it comes from nothing. Descent neither disturbs nor delights; it is ponderous, pretentious sludge. And even that doesn't begin to describe this Descent. I'm sick of seeing this book on my desk, mocking me, beggaring my critical faculties; avoid by every means necessary.

I will give a few points to that stepback art above, artist unknown, which depicts an actual scene in the book, and to whoever wrote the tagline and back cover copy:

But if you really want unbearable truths about the living, 
go listen to what Timmy Baterman has to say

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fangoria Nightmare Library Reviews, Sept 1987

Another stellar crop of Fangoria mag fiction reviews of works by esteemed '80s horror writers, including erstwhile Eric C. Higgs. I really can't thank reader Patrick B. enough for sending these along to me! I'll get back to reviewing in the new year if not before.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Fangoria Nightmare Library Reviews, October 1986

More Fango reviews! Lots of favorite names here: Klein, Skipp & SpectorBloch. Thanks to Crypticus for sending these along, I'm still going through them! Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Fangoria Nightmare Library Reviews, February 1988

Another installment of Fangoria mag's vintage book reviews, thanks to TMHF reader Patrick B. Authors should be familiar to horror fans: Joe Lansdale, Whitley Strieber, Michael Talbot, Rex Miller, and Thomas Monteleone. And I myself have reviewed three of these titles: Lansdale's Nightrunners, Talbot's Bog, and Miller's Slob.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fangoria Nightmare Library Reviews, March 1987

The Fangoria vaults have been opened once again, this time thanks to reader Patrick B., who sent me a treasure trove of Nightmare Library review scans from the golden era of '80s horror fiction. Behold this particular cache, as it features reviews of some of our favorites... 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

John Farris Fangoria Interview, 1987

And one more terrific Fangoria magazine interview with a prominent 1980s horror writer, this time John Farris (issue 67, Sept 1987). Thanks again to TMHF reader Peter F. for sharing these scans with me. Hope you've enjoyed them, I know I did!


Friday, December 1, 2017

Ramsey Campbell Fangoria Interview, 1986

Continuing this little excavation of old Fangoria mags by TMHF reader Peter F., here is an interview with horror giant Ramsey Campbell, from the June 1986 issue of the magazine.