The Trouble in Deacon’s Kill: Alan Ryan’s The Kill and Dead White

The Kill

Tor – 1982

I really got into this book when I was reading it, but the ending was a let down.

The novel starts off with a child being murdered in the woods near a place named Deacon’s Kill. This scene is deeply unpleasant, but it does a good job of engaging the reader. Soon after the kid dies, a young professional buys a house in “the Kill” and invites all her friends for a party. One of them goes out to pee in the woods and gets murdered. A young couple who had been at the party then start living in the farm house and making friends with the locals, but it’s not long before they realise something bad is in the woods near their house.

That’s a pretty solid set up. I was totally invested at this point. I read the first 200 pages of the book in one sitting. Unfortunately, the ending of the book happens too fast, and the explanation given for the kills in The Kill is bizarre and unsatisfying. I’m going to talk about it in the next paragraph, so maybe skip that until you’ve finished the book.

A prehistoric, invisible, almost invincible man was fossilized inside a stone until it rolled down a hill and cracked open. I’m not a geologist or historian or anything, but the last time that the Eastern part of the United States was under water was the Cambrian period, about 50 million years ago. This guy is pretty old. Also, if he doesn’t weigh enough to make a footprint, how does he exert enough force to kill people? There’s no explanation given to this extremely mysterious antagonist. It just doesn’t work.

Dead White

Tor – 1983

I had planned to include two of Ryan’s novels in this post, but I didn’t realise when I started Dead White that it is also set in Deacon’s Kill and features some of the same characters as The Kill. It’s not a sequel, but the town itself is as much a character here as in The Kill, and I would strongly recommend reading these books together. The text also references Charles L. Grant’s Oxrun Station and Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel as if they were real places. I thought that was pretty cool.

The events in Dead White take place only a little while after the events of The Kill. A big snow storm hits the town of Deacon’s Kill at the same time that a circus train full of diseased, bloodthirsty clowns arrives at the town’s abandoned railway station. This sounds silly (in the best possible way), but the writing is good enough to fill the book with suspense and atmosphere. The chapters are all fairly short too, and every time I would tell myself, “One more before bed.”, I’d end up reading 7 or 8.

I really enjoyed reading The Kill, but the ending fell flat. Dead White is just as enjoyable, but the ending here is more cohesive while remaining just as bizarre. It is a book about murderous clowns, but it predates both King’s It and Killer Klowns From Outer Space., so it doesn’t really feel like the cheesy clownsploitation horror that I’m sure we’re all sick of. I really enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be reading Ryan’s Cast a Cold Eye in the future.

Summoning the Candyman (A Curse)

On Halloween night, my wife and I watched the 2021 Candyman movie. We had thought it was a remake rather than a sequel, and my wife had never seen the original film. Afterwards, I was explaining some stuff about the original movie when I mentioned that I had written a blog post on the Candyman a few years ago. I googled the title of that article so that I could show her, and when I saw the results, I was a little surprised to see a youtube video with almost the exact same title as my article.

Note the dates.

My blog has been referenced in books, podcasts, other blogs and youtube videos before, and I am always happy to find out that what I write here is of interest to others. I don’t expect MLA citations or anything like that, but it seems like common decency for content creators to give credit where credit is due. My article was not the first time that Candyman and Purple Aki were mentioned together, but it is definitely the most comprehensive account of their relationship online. If you look back on it, you will notice that I was fairly meticulous about providing links to all of my sources. The youtube video I found was created a year after my blog post went up, and its description references “the theory that Clive Barker’s Candyman was based on the story of Purple Aki”. Now I did not come up with that theory, but I think it’s very safe to assume that anyone researching that theory in 2021 would definitely have come across my work on it. As I watched the video, I was taken back by how much the narrator sounded like me. Yes, he too is Irish, but the phrases he used also sounded remarkably like my own. I checked my blog post, and I discovered that he had basically just read out chunks of my article and presented them as his own research.

Not cool.

I left a comment on the original video, but the coward deleted it. I decided to put a curse on him. I thought the most apt punishment would be to send the Candyman after him. First off, I entered a trance state and did some free-writing. The result was a short-story about this stupid idiot getting his comeuppance. It’s a rather unpleasant piece of writing, so I’ll just link to a pdf so that my more sensitive readers don’t have to upset themselves. I here present Louis meets the Candyman.

Next, I converted the text file into a sound and played around with it a bit. I also created a short video with scenes from the original Candyman movie and some extremely potent images. The writing (or noise thereof) and imagery is really to just charge the curse with emotion. The catalyst for the summoning comes from the plagiarist himself. In the Candyman movies, the murderous Candyman is summoned when somebody says his name 5 times while looking in a mirror. Well, I went through the dirty thief’s video and discovered, much to my delight, that he names Candyman exactly 5 times. I isolated those 5 utterances and mixed them into the video, which is embedded below. This blog post is itself the mirror, reflecting Louis’s lowly deeds. By playing this video, the victim says Candyman 5 times in a “mirror” and thus seals his own death warrant.

I am entirely confident that this will lead to that dirty, little thief getting his muscles squeezed good and hard. Annoying rat voice on him too. Stupid dork.

Right, I’ll be back to posting about books from next week. Had to get this out of my system.

EDIT: After publishing this blog post, I sent it to the intended victim. He was cool about it and listed my blog post as his source of information. I’m not sure if I can stop the curse at this point, but I take back all of the mean things I said about him.

The Animated Skeleton – Anonymous


Valancourt Books – 2005 (Originally published 1978)


Originally published in two volumes in 1798, The Animated Skeleton is an early example of the Gothic novel. What distinguishes this book from some of its contemporaries that I’ve reviewed on this site (The Castle of Otranto (1764), Vathek (1786), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), The Monk (1796), …) is the fact that it remained out of print for more than 200 years.

The Animated Skeleton has all the stuff you’d expect. There’s hidden passages, a virginal maiden, haunted chambers, a tyrannical ruler and his subservient bandits. Plus, the plot plays out in a nunnery and a castle. Why then, I hear you asking, did this book fade into obscurity while the novels of Ann Radcliffe have seen hundreds of editions?

I can’t say for certain, but I have a feeling that it might have something to do with the fact that it’s very, very shitty.

Honestly, this is not good at all. It’s a terrible, boring, confusing mess.

A family goes on the run after the mother is assaulted by some brutes. After getting framed for murder, they go to a monastery where they find out that a powerful woman (she’s not quite a queen) in a local castle has a grudge against them and their mate. The mother of the family dies, and then there’s a court case where it becomes apparent that they are innocent. Meanwhile, ghosts are showing up back in the castle of the bad lady. I did read the rest, but it was so boring that I don’t want to recount it here.

There’s too many characters, and most of them are entirely forgettable. One of them has two names, and the author goes back and forth between them even though they say they won’t. Honestly, reading this was a chore. I have read that the low quality was because the author of this book wrote it to make money rather than literature and that this distinguishes it from the earlier works of gothic fiction mentioned above. I suppose this book will be of interest to those interested in the history of the gothic novel, but if you’re looking for an enjoyable read, you should probably avoid The Animated Skeleton.

In saying this, I cannot over emphasize how grateful I am to Valancourt Books for literally making it their business to republish books like this. Personally, I am mildly interested in the history of the Gothic novel, and I’m very happy to have been able to read The Animated Skeleton. This is one of the first books that Valancourt put out, and they have gone on to make loads of awesome books available again. I think that the world is lucky to have a company that puts the effort in to preserve these strange old tales for future generations. I fully intend to read more of Valancourt’s Gothic reprints in the future.

I hope you all have a spooky (and safe) Halloween!

The Devil of DeCourcy Island: The Brother XII. – MacIsaac, Clark and Lillard

The Devil of DeCourcy Island: The Brother XII. – Ron MacIsaac, Donald Clark and Charles Lillard
Porcépic Books – 1989


In the 1920s, a weirdo calling himself Brother XII started a commune for his religious order on Vancouver Island. His cult, the Aquarian Foundation, was a variant of theosophy, and it was mainly made up of old rich stupid people. As time went on, things got awkward at the commune, especially after Brother XII started taking his new girlfriends back with him and telling his followers that these women were reincarnations of Egyptian goddesses. One of these women was quite mean to the people living in the commune. The Aquarians started to suspect that their religious leader might have been taking advantage of them. He was living in a big house with his mistress, and they were living in shacks. They tried to take him to court, but when the court date came around, Brother XII was missing. He had sailed away with as much of their money as he could fit into his boat. Nobody really knows where he went afterwards, but some believe he died in Europe a few years later.

Making the story seem more interesting than it really is.

That’s more or less what happened. It’s a moderately interesting story. Nothing about it seems particularly far-fetched. This is story told in the first half of The Devil of DeCourcy Island by MacIsaac, Clark and Lillard. The book’s narration is horrendous, and it constantly goes back and forward in time. I think this might have been done to create suspense, but it fails. It just makes reading the narrative confusing.

The writing is terrible, but the real problem with this book is that the second half serves as a rebuttal to the first half. The authors spend the final 60 pages showing how parts of the story they’ve just told are slightly inaccurate. There’s no major contradictions that I could pick out though; they’re all little fecky things. It struck me as odd that they would structure the book in such an awful manner. Surely the logical approach would be to simply write a single, accurate account of what they knew about the Aquarian Foundation? I reckon the authors did what they did because the interesting version of a truthful story of Brother XII would only take up 60 or so pages.

The first half of this book is poorly structured. The second half is unbearably boring. I had hoped to read about some weird occult rituals, but it was mostly about how different witnesses reported different amounts of money being taken. I’m not going to rule out reading more books on Brother XII in the future, but I’m not going to go searching them out either.

Gabrielle Wittkop’s The Necrophiliac

ECW Press 2011 (First published 1972)

Gabrielle Wittkop’s The Necrophiliac isn’t the first book about a corpse fucker that I’ve read, but it does seem to be the most “lyrical”, whatever that means. Every review I’ve seen of this grim little novella praises the expressive nature of the sex scenes with festering cadavers. If I hadn’t googled the book after reading it, I would have guessed it was written by a weird 20 year old with a ponytail, but the author was actually a 50 year old French woman.

This book passes for literature because the language used isn’t what you’d expect from a piece of art about fucking the dead. Cannibal Corpse, one of my favourite bands since I was a teenager, have written many songs about necrophiliacs, and the lyrics to these songs would be my benchmark when it comes to this kind of thing.

Cannibal Corpse – Necropedophile (1992)Gabrielle Wittkop – The Necrophiliac (1972)
I begin the dead sex, licking her young, rotted orifice
I cum in her cold cunt, shivering with ecstasy
For nine days straight I do the same
She becomes by dead, decayed child sex slave
Her neck I hack, cutting through the back
I use her mouth to eject

Here I cum, blood gushes from
Bleeding black blood
Her head disconnected
As I came, viciously I cut, through her jugular vein
She’s already dead, I masturbate with her severed head
My lubrication, her decomposition
While I was sliding into that flesh so cold,
so soft, so deliciously tight, found only in
the dead, the child abruptly opened an eye,
translucent like that of an octopus, and
with a terrifying gurgling, she threw up a
black stream of mysterious liquid on me.
Open in a Gorgon mask, her mouth didn’t
stop vomiting this juice until its odour
filled the room. All this rather spoiled my
pleasure. I’m accustomed to better
manners, for the dead are tidy.

Maybe some of the beauty of Wittkrop’s prose got lost in translation, but the effects of the above excerpts seem almost identical to me, even if the execution is little more “lyrical” in the latter. Sure, Wittkopp’s passage contains a synonym, an allusion to Greek mythology, and a touch of irony, but it’s still puerile gross-out material.

Don’t get me wrong here. The Necrophiliac was a short, moderately entertaining read. It was fine; it just makes me cringe to see people fawning over it because the author was European and threw in some poetic devices. It’s still a gross book for horrible sickos. I reckon I liked The Necrophiliac more than the other dirty French books I read a few years ago.

Eric Ericson’s Esoteric Occult Trilogy – The Sorcerer, Master of the Temple, and The Woman who Slept with Demons

Several years ago, as I was reading Sandy Robertson’s book about Aleister Crowley, I came across the following passage:

I am a fan of both occult lore and biscuits, so I knew I had to find and read this promising book. When I looked it up, I found that the author had written 3 occult novels, and not being a coward, I determined to track down and read all of them. It only took 5 years.

The Sorcerer

NEL – 1978
This book starts off with a scientist realising, much to his dismay, that the orgy he is attending is actually a sex magic ritual being performed by a coven of witches. He’s even more annoyed when he realises the ritual is serving as his initiation into the coven.

The coven leader, a man with scarred face named Frazer, takes a shine to the new lad and renames him Thomas. Frazer is a shifty dude, and although his followers respect him, this respect is borne out of fear. Thomas hates him straight away. It turns out Frazer is on the quest for immortality, and he is willing to sacrifice anything to achieve it. He’s a real scummer. The plot from this point is fairly predictable

I had read a few comments online that suggested that the main thing that set Ericson’s writing apart from the writers of other occult thrillers was his knowledge of ceremonial magic. His theory of magic falls in line with much of what I have read of the topic, but the potency of the magic in this book is pretty fantastic stuff. We’ve got festering zombies, soul transference, astral executions and a poo spell. This is fiction though, and if it were more realistic, the book would suck. Also, in order to figure out his magical powers, Thomas has sex with all of the women in the coven multiple times. Cool.

The fact that the protagonist is a scientist made things more interesting. He kept trying to rationalise what was happening and trying to use scientific reasoning to enhance his magical abilities. He failed at the former, but succeeded in the latter. I don’t know if that was supposed to make a point.

This book is only 224 pages long, but it took me 9 days to finish. I didn’t dread reading it, but I didn’t look forward to it either, and I only ever managed a few chapters at a time. It was alright.

Master of the Temple

1983- NEL
When I look up of a book or series of books and find that there’s little to no information about them online, I get intrigued. Aside from a few brief goodreads reviews, I wasn’t able to find anything about Eric Ericson’s books. Might they be forgotten esoteric masterpieces?

No. The reason that nobody talks about these books is that they’re boring as shit. Honestly, Master of the Temple is one of the worst novels I have ever read. It’s so, so fucking terrible. I’m going to summarise the plot here to save you the trouble of reading this utter hog’s shit.

Jonathan is a sales manager for a company that makes biscuits. He’s also a member of The Masters of the Temple, a secret society of sex magicians. The first part of the book describes his business trips around Europe. He’ll meet up with a biscuit distributor, do a little business and then sneak off for a bit to visit the local lodge of The Masters. There he will have sex with a beautiful woman with large breasts. Unfortunately for Jonathan, his boss, a lad called Braithwaite, is always on his case. Jonathan performs a magical ritual to summon the demon Abaddon to deal with his pesky boss, and poor old Braithwaite ends up in hospital with a horrid stomach condition.

With Braithwaite out of the way, Jonathan is promoted and ends up touring the United States trying to increase the biscuit company’s American presence. Things go pretty much the same way that they did in Europe, but the women here have even bigger tits. He meets one with an enormous rack and falls in love.

When he gets back to England, his aunt calls him and tells him that she’s sick. This triggers a flashback to when he was thirteen and his aunt gave him a blowjob. It turns out that she spent 5 years sexually molesting him. This was a bit of a weird turn, but things soon got weirder still.

Braithwaite, the lad he cursed, jumps out a window and kills himself, so Jonathan goes to his old boss’s secretary’s house and repeatedly rapes her until she goes insane.

Some other members of his order find out about this, so they kick Jonathan out of their clubhouse. Jonathan is so upset by this that he drives his car into a wall and kills himself.

My concern here is that I have made this book sound more interesting than it actually is. It’s nowhere near as interesting as I’ve just made it sound.

Here are some problems:

  • While the above story is fiction, most of this book is not. I’d say at least half of the book is an account of the history of Western esotericism. No thanks. I’ve read that stuff before.
  • Sex magic is seriously cringey. I far preferred the biscuit salesman stuff to the extended scenes of Jonathan holding in his cum. Gross. There’s one part where he’s having sex with a prostitute where he says to himself, “I who am a perfect king to the people entrusted to me by god, I who am by God’s command their shepherd, Have never tarried, never rested.” It was a bit like that scene in American Psycho where Bateman is looking in the mirror at his own muscles when he’s fucking a prostitute, only lamer. Honestly, when you think about the arrogance of people who are into this stuff, it’s mortifyingly embarrassing. Human beings are animated filth, and cumming is like shitting and pissing; it feels good because our bodies need to do it. To think that holding in your gip for a while brings you closer to god is downright silly.
  • Unlike in The Sorcerer, the magic in here is fairly realistic. There’s no astral projection or people getting hit with blue lightning. There’s rituals, and these rituals seem to have effects, but a sceptic could put these effects down to coincidence.
  • The main character is a preppy fucking douchebag. The gargoyle on the cover of this book should be replaced with a picture of a red-haired twat wearing a scarf.
  • There is not a single female character in this book whose breasts are not described. The main character of this book is a biscuit salesman, but not a single biscuit is described. I am a fan of tits, but I am also a fan biscuits, and this ratio was fucked up. He should have whipped out a packet of jammie dodgers while he was getting a wank off the old Finnish crone in the sauna. That would have made that scene much more entertaining.
  • It’s sooooooo fucking long.

Seriously, Master of the Temple is a horrid pile of brown, brown scat from a rotten shitter. Avoid it at all costs.

The Woman Who Slept with Demons

NEL – 1980
After finishing Master of the Temple, I waited a few months before starting on The Woman who Slept with Demons. It has a far cooler title, but I assumed it was going to be terrible. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It wasn’t a great novel, but it was only a novel. It thankfully doesn’t include a lengthy history of western occultism.

Andrew, a promiscuous veterinarian stops to help a woman whose car has broken down. Her name is Bianca, and she asks him to drop her off in some field in the country side. He does so, but after he drives off, he gets worried about her, so he heads back to make sure she can get home ok. When he gets to where he had dropped her off, he finds her having sex with a demon. The demon beats him up. Soon thereafter, Bianca sucks Andrew’s dick and by doing so makes him her slave. She also gains psychic control over him, and he can only get hard for her. This aspect of the book was very similar to Russ Martin’s satanic mind control books.

It turns out that Bianca is one of “the Apart”. The Apart are basically people who have been given powers by demons. With these powers comes a general disregard for decency and societal norms. The rest of the book follows Andrew’s descent into a dark world filled with violence, debauchery, child abuse, rape, incest, flaccid penises and sexy fat women. One scene involves an Egyptian pervert being brutally stomped to death by two horny hags who have been tied up and possessed by a demon. When he’s dead, they grab Andrew and have a threesome in the Egyptian’s viscera.

This book is far trashier than either of Ericson’s other novels, and I found this made it far more tolerable. None of these books are clever, but at least The Woman who Slept with Demons seems to realise this. The occultism on display here is of the far less believable kind, and this makes the book far more enjoyable. I disliked Master of the Temple so much that I’m not sure how much I feel about this book was relief and how much was actual enjoyment. It was decent enough though. This is definitely the best out of the three.

Ericson wrote a history of Witchcraft too, but I don’t feel any desire to track that one down.

Norman Bogner’s Snowman

NEL – 1979 (First Published 1978)

I started Snowman because i wanted something short. After reading the first few chapters and realising this was a novel about a team of Native Americans and Vietnam veterans hunting a yeti who attacks a ski lodge, I considered giving up. Thomas Page’s The Spirit was based on an almost identical premise, and I wasn’t a huge fan of that book.

Things picked up a bit as I kept reading. The main bigfoot hunter here is called away from a weird drug cult he has started on a Native American reservation, and he’s armed with miniature nuclear weapons. The bigfoot in question is also really, really big, and he’s half-dragon. Yes. He has heat rays and sparks come out of his mouth.

Honestly, this book was entertaining enough when I got into it, but realistically, it’s drivel. There’s a whole bunch of subplots and ideas that go absolutely nowhere. There are some cool bits, but Bogner didn’t seem to understand that these ridiculously over the top elements are the only thing that make the book enjoyable. Too much of the book is filler. Why the fuck would I want a chapter on a love interest in a book in which a peyote munching wacko melts a fire-breathing yeti’s arm off with a tiny nuclear warhead shot from a crossbow at the top of a mountain? I think Bogner should have played up the trashier elements, maybe added a some wheelies, laserbeam and guitar solos.

This book was like airplane food, unappealing at first, but tolerable after the first few bites. It also gave me diarrhea.

Tom Piccirilli’s Nameless Necromancer: Pentacle and A Lower Deep

I did a post on a few books by Tom Piccirilli earlier this year, and despite ending that post saying I would avoid his horror fiction for a while, I recently read two more of his spookier books, Pentacle and A Lower Deep.

Pentacle

1995 – Pirate Writings Pub
This is a collection of 7 short stories about a wandering wizard and his familiar spirit, Self. Self is pretty much just a small, sassier version of the Necromancer that follows him around, licking him when he gets hurt and attacking the people who inflict his injuries.

The Necromancer and Self stay at an abandoned hotel, go to a blues concert, visit a mental asylum, an art gallery and a native reservation. They come across demons, ghosts and witches in all of these places, and they rarely make friends. A lot of hexes are thrown about.

Speaking of hexes, I found Piccirilli’s novel Hexes a bit challenging when I read it, but I think it might make more sense if I had read it after this one. While Pentacle is not a sequel or prequel to Hexes, it is set in the same universe. Some of it is set in the same town, and both books feature Panecraft Asylum. They’re both from relatively early in Piccirilli’s writing career, and it seems a bit like he was trying to establish his equivalent of Arkham. I haven’t read it, but another of Piccirilli’s stories is also set in Panecraft.

The writing is very dark, and it reminded me of Clive Barker with its focus of blood and pain. It’s a bit more occulty though. It references a lot of real occult texts and authorities, and a lot of these stories feature real figures from the history of witchcraft. Matthew Hopkins has somehow come back to run the insane asylum. There’s a recipe for disaster.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than the other horror stuff I’ve read by Piccirilli. The writing isn’t super clear, but the short story form makes it easier for me to get through a plot without knowing exactly what’s going on.

A Lower Deep

2001 – Leisure Books

A Lower Deep is basically a novel sized continuation of the stories in Pentacle. This time the Necromancer’s old friend tries to get him to resurrect Christ so they can bring about Armageddon and storm into heaven. (Yes. The protagonist remains unnamed here. Oooooooh, so edgy!) I hated this book so much that I find it hard to believe that I wrote the above paragraphs. I’ve wanted to write positively about Piccirilli’s books for years, but in truth, his horror novels are crap. This book is boring, contrived shite. If you don’t have an interest in the Bible, this will be very confusing. There’s lots of references to the Book of Revelation, the prophet Elijah and the nephilim. Yuck.

This is really a work of fantasy rather than horror. There’s lots of blood and occultism, but nothing scary happens, and I hated every page. Self, the protagonist’s familiar is supposed to add comic relief, but I found him horribly disruptive to the novel’s tone. A one point during the beginning of the apocalypse, he starts speaking with a Jamaican accent. Sigh…

The brevity of the stories in Pentacle is what made them bearable. A Lower Deep is a short novel, but it’s still far, far too long. Honestly, it’s terrible. Avoid it.

I am probably done with Piccirilli. I gave him more than a fair chance, but his horror novels just didn’t do it for me.

Satan Wants Me – Robert Irwin

Satan Wants Me – Robert Irwin
Dedalus – 2019 (Originally published 1999)

I kept a diary from the time I was 14 until I was 17. Reading back over it now is excruciating. When I started reading Satan Wants Me, an occult novel in the form of a diary, I felt the same embarrassment for the narrator that I do for myself whenever I read my own old journals. The self-absorbed tone of a diary keeper is spot on.

At first I couldn’t figure out whether this was because Robert Irwin was a skilled writer who understood his character or if he was actually transcribing his own diaries. Some of it is really cringey, but in retrospect, I’m sure this was intentional. You’re supposed to think the narrator here is a bit of a wanker.

Peter is a hippy, an occultist and a PhD Candidate. The book starts off when one of the leaders of an occult order he has joined instructs him to keep a diary. The year is 1967, and Peter is mostly occupied with drugs, sex and rock’n’roll (in that order). He joined the occult order so that he could see a demon, but that doesn’t work out immediately.

Somebody recommended this book to me, and I picked it up knowing nothing about it at all. I ended up spending a large portion of the novel wondering what kind of a book it was going to be. A lot of novels about occultism veer into horror, and the ones that don’t are likely metaphorical wishy washy crap. This book seemed neither. As the novel progresses, the protagonist becomes more and more convinced of the efficacy of magic, but nothing actually happens that couldn’t be explained away by a sceptic. I quite admired this aspect of the novel. I feel like Robert Irwin understood what he was writing about.

Interwoven into the story are a bunch of different aspects of occult history. This novel manages to pull off what Eric Ericson’s The Master of the Temple fails to do. A person who knows nothing of the occult will learn from this book without getting too bored. The Satanism is important to the story, but it’s not overbearing.

This is a book about Satanism, sex, hallucinogenic drugs and rock music. I don’t know how it took me so long to check it out. I read it when I was on holidays, and it seemed to take me ages to get through it, but I thought it was pretty good. It only occurred to me as I was editing this post that I have also reviewed a book called Satan Wants You. That one was crap, as I recall.

Barry Hammond’s Cold Front – Canada’s Rarest Horror Paperback?

Cold Front -Barry Hammond
Signet -1982

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. You have seen that cover show up on this blog before. Valancourt books used that artwork on their 2019 edition of Thomas Page’s The Spirit. (If you’ve seen the original artwork for that one you’ll understand why.) Two books sharing the same cover is not unheard if in the world of paperback horror, but Cold Front is an anomaly. This book is so rare that there was recently a thread on reddit about whether it still exists or not. There’s lots of rare horror paperbacks, but copies of The Voice of the Clown, Eat Them Alive, Chainsaw Terror and the Halloween novelisation are out there; they’re just really expensive. Cold Front is different. There are 5-6 known copies in existence. The rest of the scant information about this book online suggests that it is a lost classic, a surprisingly well written nightmare that has almost disappeared.

Adding to the allure is the fact that the book is supposed to be extremely Canadian. I have no proof of this, but as far as I know, Cold Front was only ever available in Canada, hence its rarity. Now I don’t know about you, but there’s little in the world that excites me more than a mysterious, rare, horror paperback, smothered in maple syrup. I had to read this one.

As I write this, there is actually a copy of Cold Front for sale on ebay for $3000. I didn’t pay quite that much, but I had to make a bunch of calls, barter with strange Canucks and then travel across the Great White North to procure a copy. The whole process took 4 months, but last week, I finally got my hands on one of the last remaining copies of this bizarre little book.

Cold Front is only 150 pages long. The first two thirds are entertaining but largely predictable. Three low-lifes kill their boss after a night of drinking. They stash his corpse and his cash box into their car and drive away into a storm. When they wake up the next morning, they find themselves broken down in the middle of nowhere and then notice that the body is missing from the trunk of their car. Concerned and cold, they walk until they find a cabin with a smoking chimney. When they enter they find a beautiful, half naked woman alone.

And that is where the predictable part of this story ends. As the tagline on the back cover says, “You might pity the girl, trapped in a snowbound cabin in the Canadian wilderness with three savage fugitives from the law. But you would be wrong.” I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that the last 50 or so pages of this book are mental. This changes from a gritty crime novel to a blood-soaked, supernatural nightmare.

I can confirm that most of the stuff you’ve read about this novel is true. Cold Front is a fast paced, well written, absolutely bonkers, horror novel. It is a great shame that more people haven’t had the chance to read it.

This book is infamously rare, but unlike some rare paperback horror novels, this one is rare (at least in part) because of its reputation as being a good book. I couldn’t help but wonder why it has not been republished. The fact that Valancourt books used its cover for another book proves that Cold Front was on their radar at some point. They confirmed this in a different thread on reddit about the book, where they stated that “The art for The Spirit was not available to use and there were no plans for Cold Front to be reissued. We purchased the rights for the Cold Front art.” How would they know that there were no plans for Cold Front to be reissued if they hadn’t looked into reissuing it at some point? It seems fairly safe to assume that Hammond turned them down.

Why would an author do this? Well, this is pure speculation, but I have a theory. Barry Hammond is still active in the world of Canadian literature. He’s currently the poetry editor for On Spec, “the Canadian magazine of the fantastic”. Canada has changed quite a lot since Cold Front was published in 1982, particularly with how people think about the experiences and representation of the Indigenous and First Peoples of Canada. One of the main characters in this book is an Indigenous Canadian and a violent alcoholic. There are another two Indigenous characters who come across no better, and none of this is contextualized by addressing the horrible shit that Indigenous people in Canada would have lived through at the time when this book was written. This wouldn’t go down well today. In fairness, Hammond has to have been a fairly young man when he wrote this, and in 1982, most Canadians supposedly didn’t know about the utterly abhorrent shit that their government was doing to First Nations peoples. Again, this is pure speculation, but if Hammond is the type of guy he seems to be (and remember, he’s the poetry editor for a literary magazine), I reckon he’s happy enough to let this book remain obscure and mysterious. If this is the case, that’s actually pretty cool (and very Canadian) of him.

There are some heinous racial slurs used at one point, but the characters in this novel are definitely the kind of guys who would use racial slurs. The swearing throughout is generally delightful. I think it’s the second chapter that opens up with the phrase, “Holy Cock!” All this profanity made the book feel a bit like a Trailer Park Boys Halloween special. I mean that in a positive way.

Cold Front is definitely of its era, but if you’re able to look past its faults, it’s very entertaining. It’s only 150 pages, so I got through it in a couple of sittings. If you ever find a copy of this bizarre Canadian masterpiece, read it immediately.