The Devil on Lammas Night – Susan Howatch

susan howatch the devil on lammas night.jpgThe Devil on Lammas Night -Susan Howatch
Ace Star -1970

A millionaire’s wife and his daughter, Nicola, are seduced by Tristan Poole, the charismatic and mysterious leader of “The Society for the Propagation of Nature Foods”. This society is actually a Satanic cult posing as a harmless group of new-agers, and Poole’s motives for seducing Nicola and her step-mom are less than gentlemanly. Oh, and to complicate matters further, Poole is living in Nicola’s ex-boyfriend’s house.

Things play out pretty much as you would expect.

This is primarily a romance novel. The Satanic antagonist’s main motivation is money, and while there is plenty of black magic in here, the story could still work if this element was switched with something else. That being said, I quite enjoyed the little bits of occultism sprinkled throughout. Howatch seems to have done her homework; the rituals here are documented, and the demons listed are all of the Solomnic tradition. There’s a part where a character shies away from explicitly describing the Osculum Infame and another bit where the author claims that the Satanist performed “unprintable” acts to his communion Eucharist. I knew that witches are supposed to kiss the devil’s shitterhole before reading this book, so I was able to fill in the blanks to the first omission by myself, but I can’t remember what unprintable acts are supposed to be performed on a Satanic Eucharist. Does the celebrant cum on them or rub them against his bumhole or something?

I’m not going to rush out to read Susan Howatch’s other books, but this one was fine.

Doll Magic – Basil LaCroix

doll magic basil crouch.jpg
Doll Magic – Basil Crouch

Finbarr – 2005

Ok, so I know that last week I said I was going to cut back on posting, and I know that one of the reasons for this cutback was the shockingly low standard of the stuff I’ve reviewed recently, but old habits die hard, so here is a post on an abhorrently stupid pamphlet on doll magic by the incredibly stupid occultist, liar and probable child predator, Basil Crouch. Crouch’s The Hallowed Genie deals with a similar topic, but Doll Magic is shorter than that book and therefore a bit less stupid.

Here’s a brief summary:

Basil spent his childhood travelling around with a circus. He used magic to help a girl whose skull had been fractured. 20 years later, this girl’s mother bequeathed Basil a pair of crudely made magical dolls and a text on how to use them.

Basil gives very basic instructions on how to make a doll – you can basically just tape 2 sticks together and stick a tennis ball on top of one. That’ll do. Then you put energy from your head into this doll, and it will do magic. The magic only works if you are willing to clear your house of stuff you no longer need. Hoarders can’t do magic. The Law of Attraction is real, but it doesn’t work if what you want is bad for you. Has this last paragraph seemed illogical and silly? The section of Doll Magic that it’s paraphrasing certainly is.

The next parts describes how to make a doll that will help you make decisions and talk to dead people and another that will help you contact the gods of voodoo when you need money. The spell you say for the money is, “Money and honey I need, Money and honey with speed, Money and honey I plead, Money and honey give me indeed”. This is bound to be effective.

The last part of the book describes how to make a doll that will cure you of any ailment or disability. You make the doll and then tell it stories about what you would do if you weren’t sick. The doll will help you believe these stories and then you won’t be sick. It really works. One guy was in a wheelchair for 20 years, but then he tried this and he could walk again!

There’s not much to say about this pamphlet. If you ever come across a copy, use it for shitter-paper. Usually I spend more time and effort on my posts, but I only decided to do this one a bit before it was due, so it had to be on something very short and awful. You’d have to be a real pinhead to take this rubbish seriously, and I have drawn a picture of such an individual in an attempt to redeem myself for making my readers aware that this pile of stinking garbage exists. Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between, I give you the scholar of Crouch:

basil lacroix crouch

Hell-O-Ween and The Manse

hell-o-ween the manse halloweenHappy Halloween. To celebrate my favourite holiday, I’m reviewing two Halloween horror novels that have pumpkins on their covers.

david robbins hell-o-weenHell-O-Ween – David Robbins
Leisure Books – 1992

Hell-O-Ween is a remarkably awful book. It starts off with the line; “Yo dweeb, are you ready to go monster hunting?”, and what follows is pretty much what you’d expect. This is an overwritten Goosebumps book with a little violence and a few (gross) mentions of sex thrown in. The following sentence appears n page 23: “She’d neck heavy and let a guy play finger tag with her box, but she refused to go all the way.” This isn’t a line of dialogue either; it’s the narrator’s voice. Finger tag with her box? Jesus.

Hell-O-ween is the story of a nerd, two sluts, 3 jocks (2 bad and 1 good), a geeky girl and a beautiful virgin. These painfully stock characters decide to explore a system of caves on Halloween night. There is a huge picture of an angry demon right at the entrance to the cave, and the astute reader will figure out exactly how the story is going to end after about 10 pages.

Very little happens in here that you wouldn’t expect. Perhaps the most interesting part was a lengthy passage in which one of the jock characters admits to his friend that he started selling cocaine in defiance of his liberal father. I’m sure the author was making a point here, but I can’t figure out what it was. Was it that liberals are irresponsible and can’t raise kids, or was it that non-liberals are piece-of-shit drug dealers? I sincerely don’t know.

This was a gruelling read that I regretted starting almost immediately. Do yourself a favour and give this one a miss.

the manse lisa wThe Manse – Lisa W. Cantrell
TOR – 1987

The Manse won a Stoker award for best 1st novel in 1987. Kathe Koja’s excellent The Cipher won this same award a few years later, so I was expecting a fairly high standard from this book.

I was disappointed, terribly disappointed. This is shockingly dull garbage. It’s the painfully boring story of a haunted house that becomes extra haunted on Halloween night. Actually, Will Erickson reviewed The Manse years ago, and said all of the things I feel like saying about this book. Read his review if you’re still interested. I don’t need to say anything more. Cantrell wrote a sequel, but I’m not going to waste my time on it. The Manse was a shitty, shitty pile of trash. It was poo in a baby’s diaper. Stay away!

 

Both of the books I reviewed for this post absolutely sucked. Actually, pretty much all of the books I reviewed this month absolutely sucked. This week marks a milestone for this blog, and I have a bit of an announcement about that.

For the last year, I have published (at least) one post per week. I have read some great books in the process, but I have also forced myself to read some utter crap to maintain the steady stream of reviews. After some consideration, I have decided that continuing at this pace isn’t really beneficial to me or to this blog. Look at some of the shit I’ve reviewed in the last year.

 

 

Sensible adults don’t read books like these.

Nobody cares about this nonsense, especially me. With this in mind, I want to let you know that I am going to cut back on posts for the next while. I’m going to be focusing on quality rather than quantity for a bit. This probably means 2 posts a month rather than the 5 you’ve been getting for the last year, but at least the newer posts will more than just “This book is pooey farty bumbum.” I want this blog to be something that I enjoy doing rather than something I feel obliged to do.

Have a safe and happy Halloween. Check out my previous Halloween posts while you’re here.

The Splatterpunks Anthologies: Extreme Horror and Over the Edge

splatterpunks extreme horror over the edge sammon.jpg
Splatterpunks: Extreme Horror – Paul M. Sammon (Ed.)
Xanadu – 1990

The first Splatterpunks anthology was published in 1990. It’s a collection of extremely violent stories, most of which had previously been published elsewhere. Some of the stories are quite enjoyable and some are fairly shit. The most remarkable feature of this collection is the editor’s attempt to delineate Splatterpunk as a separate entity from regular horror fiction.

Every review I have read of this collection has commented on the fact that most of the authors included herein reject the splatterpunk label. Sammon himself acknowledges this fact several times throughout his introductory notes. Let’s face it. Splatterpunk was never a revolutionary literary movement; it was a label created by David Schow to describe a small group of his writer friends who were writing gory stories. The authors in this anthology repeatedly refuse the splatterpunk label because it’s too limiting, and they feel that it would only apply to a small portion of their output. If we’re calling writers Splatterpunks because they’ve written a couple of gross-out stories, surely Stephen King fits the bill too. His story Survivor Type is easily as extreme as most of the stuff in this anthology. (My point is not that King should be included here; it’s that the editor’s posturing is ridiculous. In the next anthology he goes on to claim that Bret Easton Ellis, a writer who is parodied in this collection, is actually a Splatterpunk too.)

The book includes a lengthy epilogue that I was unable to finish. Paul Sammon’s attempts to make Splatterpunk seem like a really important cultural phenomenon were genuinely embarrassing to read. I was going to include a quote from the introduction here, but after rereading the first few lines of it, I found myself cringing too hard to continue. He literally compares his authors to Burroughs, De Sade and Baudelaire in the second sentence of this book. Some stories in here were decent, but I had forgotten most of them only two weeks after finishing the collection.

 
Splatterpunks: Over the Edge – Paul M. Sammon (Ed.)
Tor – 1995

The second Splatterpunks collection came out 5 years later, and this book is far, far worse than its predecessor. Actually, I really liked some of the stories in here, but there’s way more in this one, and some of them are absolute shit.

The really dislikeable part of this one wasn’t the awful stories or even Paul Sammon’s embarrassing introductions; it was the non-fiction pieces. Aside from Sammon’s bullshit, the only non-fiction piece in the first collection was an essay on ultra violent films. I watched most of the movies it mentions when I was a teenager, so I actually quite enjoyed reading this piece. Although it was about movies, it didn’t feel hugely out of place in a collection of ultra-violent stories. There’s an article in Spatterpunks II by Martin Amis on the movies of Brian De Palma. Martin Amis is not a horror author, and while De Palma has done a few horror films, those aren’t the movies being discussed in the essay. Sure, some of De Palma’s movies are violent, but they don’t compare to the other stuff in these collections. There is absolutely no reason for this essay to be in this collection other than having a famous author’s name on its cover. Fuck off Martin Amis.

There’s also an interview in here with Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan. My favourite pastime is reading about Satanic occult orders, but I skipped this section after about 2 pages. It was excruciating. Not only does LaVey come across as an embarrassing dildo, but the interview is performed by Jim Goad. Jim Goad, for those of you who don’t know, is just about the edgiest edge-lord in town. He beats women and believes that white people are oppressed. He also published a magazine in the 90s that included pages of rape jokes. When it was first published in this same magazine, the LaVey interview was followed with an interview with David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Together, LaVey and Goad are unbearable. Again, this piece has absolutely nothing to do with horror, and can only have been included because Sammon saw it as edgy and in-your-face. (There’s also a particulary embarrassing “rant” from Goad’s wife. I actually felt sorry her after reading it. Total loser.)

And I think this edginess is the big problem with these collections. Times have changed in the last 30 years, and being edgy isn’t cool any more. Pushing the boundaries of taste isn’t a difficult task, and today’s teenagers throw about the phrase ‘edgelord’ with derision. These kids have grown up with the internet. By the time was I was finished school, I had seen video footage of executions, extreme S&M and tonnes of stuff that’s worse than the stories in this book. (Can you guys remember rotten.com?)  I don’t think it’s possible to make literary gore as shocking as what kids see on their phones every day. Brutal violence is fine and dandy when it’s used for effect, but it’s rarely interesting when it’s presented as the main attraction.

A lot of this crap is boring and predictable. Think about it:

How can you make a murder more offensive? Hmmmm, make the victim more innocent and vulnerable. Who are the most innocent and vulnerable members of society? Well, women are certainly more vulnerable than men, and there’s plenty of women dying in these books, but children are more vulnerable than women! Oh wait, one of these stories is about a child dying in a car accident. Yeah, but babies are more innocent than children. Sammon’s got you covered fam; one of these stories features a baby being sexually abused. Ok, hang on! Fetuses! Fetuses are even more vulnerable than babies! They’re the most innocent and vulnerable of all! But no author would ever have the balls to write about somebody killing fetuses, would they? Actually, yeah. quite a few of these stories involve people killing fetuses. A lot of Splatterpunk seems to involve this kind of punching down, and as I am no longer 13 years old, I have no interest in this kind of crap. I far prefer gore, brutality and violence when it’s directed at somebody who deserves it.

Also, just to amp up the cringe factor, Paul Sammon filled the last few pages of this book with a list of bands that he likes. I did the same thing with my homework journal when I was 15.

All this being said, there were some great stories in the second collection. Gorman Bechard’s Pig was deadly, and I quite liked the weird ones by Petoud and Koja. There are a few duds in here for sure, but just as it was with the first collection, this book would be far more enjoyable if it was just a collection of stories with no bullshit in between. Give me gore and brutality, but don’t try to make it seem clever when it isn’t.

Satanskin – James Havoc

satanskin james havoc.jpgSatanskin – James Havoc
Creation Press – 1992

When I was reading Irene’s Cunt a few weeks ago, I spotted an ad in the back of that book for another book named Satanskin. I can’t remember what this ad said exactly, but I know the words occult, erotic, blasphemous were used. I was expecting the book to be rare and sought after, but copies were going for next to nothing. I had purchased a copy within a minute of reading about it.

Unfortunately, Satanskin is puerile, boring, and embarrassingly transparent. The author has tried his utmost to seem mystical, dark and shocking, but he comes across as a bullied teenager using a thesaurus to channel his rage. Seriously, this is a cringefest.

These aren’t stories; they’re long, boring dream sequences. It’s just anal imagery peppered with mild occult references and big words. The average paragraph reads something like this:

Staring into the purple void, Harold ran the razor around his dilated anus, streams of blood mingling with trickles of purple feces as fecund as the panic of isolation – mother’s milk, feeding the vampiric clones of contused goblins. With a transparent swastika hovering in the placid skies of rage, Harold could feel the sickening pulse of his self induced hysterectemic stump through his lacerated colon.

I tried to write the above paragraph as a parody of Havoc, but it actually came out very close to the real thing. This book is 100 pages of this kind of garbage.

Satanskin also contains a version of Havoc’s previous book, Raism: The Songs of Gilles De Rais, as an appendix. This is a revised version of the original text of Raism, but it is not the 4 part complete version. There was also a graphic novel series based on Raism, and Havoc wrote a 4th part for that, but I don’t think the comic series was ever completed. I assume the final version of Raism appears in the collected works of Havoc, but I have no intentions of ever reading that. I think these are supposed to be songs or dreams or something from the perspective of Gilles De Rais, but Raism, much like Satanskin, is unreadable garbage. Havoc also had a musical project called Church of Raism. It sucked real bad too.

I’m being quite harsh on James, but from what I’ve read about him online, he’s not the greatest guy in the world. That being said, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book if it had been written by Nelson Mandela. It wasn’t intelligent, it wasn’t mysterious, it wasn’t disturbing, and it wasn’t remotely enjoyable. It was terrible, a nightmare, a waste of time, money and effort.

 

The Magick of Ewaz – Robert Morga

magick of ewaz robert morga
The Magick of Ewaz – Robert Morga
IGOS – 1993

Here’s another shit book from the International Guild of Occult Sciences, The Magick of Ewaz. Ewaz is supposed to be a demon, and while his name sounds very similar to Aleister Crowley’s Aiwass, there doesn’t seem to be a link between these two entities.
Morgazmo the Magician claims to have written this grimoire in a cold, scary, demon-haunted cellar. Maybe that’s why it’s so full of typos. This pathetic piece of shit is supposed to be a powerful grimoire of black magic, but it reads like the work of a geeky, stupid teenager.

The author spends most of the text boasting about how powerful and clever he is, and then he gives a few silly spells alongside some doodles. Pure shit.

soldier demon ewaz

This is seriously bottom tier stuff. It’s printed on somebody’s work (or highschool) photocopier, and the author is an awful writer. He repeatedly spells sacrifice ‘sacrafice’, uses the word ‘alot’, and has no idea about comma usage. Did nobody at IGOS proofread this pile of garbage?

I’m running out of things to say about trash like this. How is there so much of this rubbish? I have a few more texts put out by IGOS, but they’re all quite a bit longer than this one, and I don’t want to waste my time reading them. These books are laughably awful. I honestly find it difficult to imagine anyone taking this silly nonsense seriously.

On his old website, the author described this book as”the best grimoire on this planet.” Haha. He doesn’t seem to have written much else, but this book went through several editions. I think this is the earliest one. It weighs in at about 20 pages. The 6th edition is 133 pages long. I’m sure the addition of more than 100 pages made it much better…

ewaz witchAre they bowling balls or coconuts in that coffin?

 

The Cipher and Bad Brains by Kathe Koja

koja cipher bad brains
My offering this week is a couple of books by Kathe Koja. These immediately went on my to-read list after I saw them in Paperbacks From Hell. It took me quite a while to find copies, but they’re so deadly that it only took me a few days to read them.

the cipher kojaThe Cipher
Dell Abyss – 1991
This is the story of a couple who find a weird hole in the corner of an unused maintenance room in their apartment building. The hole is weird because stuff that goes into it comes out quite different. Dead bugs come back to life and mutate. Human body parts that are inserted come out grossly disgfigured. When a video camera is lowered into the hole, the resultant video footage is so disturbing that it radically and permanently affects its viewers’ lives.

No sensible explanation of the hole is ever given, and the narrative is enhanced by this omission. The plot here is quite simple, and atmosphere is what drives this novel. It’s original title was ‘The Funhole’, and while that title definitely makes more sense than ‘The Cipher’, it might have made the book sound far less dark than it is. I don’t know why they went with ‘The Cipher’ though.

Nobody is happy in this book, and everything that happens is uncomfortable. It’s fairly long too, and while I enjoyed it immensely, it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. It’s very 90s, very dark and a little bit arty. If you like Nine Inch Nails’ early records, you’ll love this. (I can’t imagine a movie version of The Cipher that doesn’t end with Head Like a Hole playing over the credits. There were talks of a movie version, but I don’t think it ever happened.)

The Cipher is an original, exciting and disturbing horror novel, truly deserving of its reputation, but it has been out of print for a long time. I managed to find a copy at a thrift store for the price of a cup of coffee, but copies currently go for silly amounts online. Luckily for you, there’s an ebook version available, and Meerkat Press are publishing new hard copies next year. I can wholeheartedly recommend that all horror fans pick up this book; it’s seriously awesome.

kathe koja bad brainsBad Brains
Dell Abyss – 1992

Bad Brains is Koja’s second novel, and it has a lot of similarities with The Cipher. In this one, the protagonist trips over a curb, and smashes his head. The resulting brain damage fucks up his life. This book has nothing to do with everyone’s favourite Rastafarian hardcore punks.

Again, the plot is quite straightforward. It’s the slick, shifting prose and atmosphere that carry this novel. The text is fantastic, but I found the pacing a little uneven with this one. There’s a lot of build up to a very cool, but overly short ending segment. Also, the blurb on the back of the Dell edition gives away the most surprising element of plot, so don’t read it until after you’ve finished.

Bad Brains is certainly a horrible story, but it’s less of a horror story than The Cipher. Weird stuff happens, but the central character is so messed up that it’s impossible to know how much of what’s being described is hallucination and how much is real. The definite supernatural element here, the Dorian Grayesque alterations of the protagonist’s paintings, are background events that occur far away from where the story is unfolding. I reckon that the most frightening element of this book is the way it forces you to contemplate the fragility of the human brain.

If you enjoyed The Cipher, you’ll enjoy this. It’s a lot easier to find too.

impermanent mercies kathe kojaLoving that comic sans action.

I also read by Impermanent Mercies by Koja. It’s a short story featured in the second Splatterpunks anthology about an accident involving a kid’s pet puppy. It’s fairly bizarre. I’m planning a post on the 2 Splatterpunks anthologies for the near future. Stay tuned.

Aside from her books, Kathe Koja is pretty cool. She doesn’t eat meat, and she doesn’t like Donald Trump. I plan to read more of her books in the future.