Echoes from the Darkness – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 1

While reading John L. Steadman’s H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition last year, I decided that the time had come for me to reread Lovecraft. Too many of the books I read and plan to read reference his stories, and it was getting to stage where I was mixing up my Shoggoths, Yuggoths and Yog-Sothoths.  In order to remedy this embarrassing situation,  I started going back over Lovecraft’s tales, including the stories that aren’t included in the Penguin editions of his work.  I started on this collection during the summer, reading a story here and there, between other books. I haven’t strictly limited myself to the stories in this collection, but it’s the first of the Wordsworth series that I’ve completed, so I’m reviewing it first.

whisperer in darknessThe Whisperer in Darkness – H.P. Lovecraft
Wordsworth – 2007

All of the other entries in the Wordsworth series contain stories that are not included in the Penguin editions, but this collection was all stuff I’ve read before. It contains:

Dagon
The Nameless City
The Hound
The Festival
The Call of Cthulhu
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in Darkness
At the Mountains of Madness

These are obviously some of Lovecraft’s finest. The Whisperer in Darkness has long been my favourite of his, but I couldn’t remember what happens at the end. It’s fucking fantastic. There were gross parts in this story and in Charles Dexter Ward that I had also forgotten about. I was also very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Call of Cthulhu. I have read an awful lot of horror fiction since the last time I read this classic, and I was expecting that it might not seem as effective to me now. If anything, I enjoyed it more than ever. There’s so many passages throughout that story that I paused to reread several times on account of their exceptional awesomeness. It took another half year to get around to writing this review though, so I’ve forgotten the specifics. In fact, the only story from this collection that I’ve read within the last 4 months has been At the Mountains of Madness. It’s only about 4 years since I previously read this story, so much of it was still in my head, but it still managed to give me a few chills. There’s one part near the end where he says, “It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.” Fuck yes. Please Sleeping Abnormalities, if you’re still out there, leave those unplumbed depths and destroy us soon!

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Lovecraft was one of the only writers I had any interest in as a teenager, but I absolutely love his writing style. I adore Lovecraftian horror. I love how he took what he understood about the advances in modern science and used this not to spread hope for the future of humankind but to insist on the futility of all human life. We are nothing in even the minutest scheme of things. According to Lovecraft’s mythos, we were created by an ancient race of prawn-cucumbers to provide them with light entertainment. YES!

Although I own all of the Wordsworth editions of Lovecraft’s work, and these are the ones I’m using to order my rereading, I’m actually reading most of the stories from the Penguin editions because of the notes therein. I’m also using audiobooks and pdf versions. The Wordsworth edition are fine though; what they lack in commentary, they make up for in comprehensiveness. So important is Lovecraft to my reading habits that I need to have hard copies of all of his stories in my library.

wordsworth lovecraft

Anyone reading this blog should have read Lovecraft. His fiction has affected so many of the other books that I review here. Kenneth Grant’s The Magical Revival, Thomas Ligotti’s Conspiracy against the Human Race, Pauwel and Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians, Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, Simon’s Necronomicon, and Stephen Sennitt’s Infernal Texts are all heavily influenced by Lovecraft. His influence on horror fiction is unmeasurable. Some novels like Michael Slade’s Ghoul and Garret Boatman’s Stage Fright feature beings directly from Lovecraft’s stories, but his influence can be found in countless ways in countless other novels and tales.

Like I said, I’m rereading Lovecraft to refresh my memory so that I can delve deeper into the realm of Lovecraftian occultism. Here’s a review of an interesting little pamphlet on that topic.

cults of cthulu tenebrous.jpgCults of Cthulhu: H.P. Lovecraft and the Occult Tradition – Frater Tenebrous
Daath Publications – 1987

This short pamphlet contains the text of a lecture given in Leeds University in 1985. It’s credited to a lad named Frater Tenebrous who the internet is telling me is another name for Peter Smith. Peter Smith was a contributor to Stephen Sennitt’s Infernal Texts, and Sennitt actually dedicated the second half of that book to him and referred to him as “foremost scholar on the Necronomicon”. Only 123 copies of this were initially published, and they go for quite a lot of money these days. Fortunately, you can download pdf copies for free. This text contains a short biography of Lovecraft, descriptions of the major players in his pantheon and a very brief discussion of how Lovecraft’s fiction has shaped the rituals of a handful of occult groups (one of whom was led by Michael Bertiaux, yet another contributor to Sennitt’s book). I can’t say Cults of Cthulhu contained much information that I wasn’t already aware of, but it was only ever supposed to be “an introduction to the occult aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings for potential initiates of the E.O.D.”. It made for pleasant reading on my commute to work one morning last week.

I’m gradually getting through the other stories and some even weirder texts of Lovecraftian occultism. Expect to see a few more posts on these over the next year.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Three More from the King

I’ve read a fair few books by Stephen King, and after my last binge on his writing, I decided to work through the rest of his books in chronological order. Last year, I only read one King novel (along with 7 novels by his friend Richard Bachman), so I want to get through a few this year. Here’s three.

the dead zone stephen kingThe Dead Zone – 1979

I read this a while back. I really enjoyed it up until near the end. It felt a bit like King had hit his publisher’s page limit when he was only halfway through the story. (I felt the same reading The Stand.) I was expecting the conflict between Johnny and Stillson, the antagonist and protagonist, both of whom are introduced within the book’s first two chapters, to take up more space in the book. There’s a huge big subplot in the middle where Johnny stops a murder that doesn’t have much to do with the main conflict of the book (as far as I remember), and was the chapter on the lightning-rod salesman really necessary? Also, isn’t there a bit that suggests that Stillson was in contact with Sarah’s husband? I presumed that that relationship would lead to serious complications for Johnny later on, but it led to nothing. It is hinted that Stillson is truly evil and that he would be an awful president, but he never gets to reach his full potential. Sure, he’s unhinged, but he never comes close to Randall Flagg levels of nastiness.

 

firestarter stephen kingFirestarter – 1980

The next of King’s books that I read features one of his scariest antagonists. Firestarter is the story of a man and his daughter, both of whom have psychic powers, being chased, imprisoned and manipulated by a shady government agency. I have a little girl myself, and I couldn’t help but get sucked into this one. The little girl in the book has the ability to start fires with her mind, and the man responsible for getting to use this power, one John Rainbird, is a chillingly evil character. He’s so bad that I had to put the book down at one point to really contemplate his wickedness.

You can probably guess how this is going to end once you get halfway through the book, but it’ll take you another 200 pages to get there. This is another long, fairly tortuous read from King.

 

cujo stephen kingCujo – 1981

I wrote the reviews for The Dead Zone and Firestarter a while after reading those books, but the wounds that Cujo inflicted on me are still healing. This book was fucking nasty.

I’ve known that this novel is about a rabid dog for as long as I remember, so I was a bit surprised that the book starts with the description of a serial killer. I was doubly surprised to realise that the serial killer being described was the killer from King’s The Dead Zone. Although it’s included in this post, I wrote the above review for The Dead Zone months before reading Cujo. In it, I actually complain about the inclusion of the serial killer subplot, but it makes sense now. I think the way King link his books together like this is really cool. You don’t have to have read The Dead Zone to enjoy Cujo, but it does make you feel pretty smart to have the background information from the other book. I’ve long known that King does this kind of thing, but this particular example makes me afraid of reading the rest of his novels out of sequence. I’m not going near the Dark Tower series until I’ve read everything else he wrote before finishing those books.

Anyways, people can say whatever they want about Stephen King’s writing, but fucking Hell, he can suck his reader into a story. His ideas can be corny, but his characters and the way they interact with each other are brilliant.

As in Firestarter, the central conflict in Cujo is drawn out and fairly hopeless. This one has an even bleaker ending though. Really, it’s very, very bleak. I really enjoyed this book.

I was going to try to read and review Pet Semetary before the new movie comes out next month, but Christine and Different Seasons were published before that one, so I won’t have the time if I’m reading King’s books in chronological order. I’ll probably get to those later on in the year.

The Satan Sleuth Series – Michael Avallone

michael avallone satan sleuth seriesPhilip St. George III, aka the Satan Sleuth, is wealthy, vengeful, sexy, equipped with ridiculous gadgets, and he loves solving spooky mysteries. Yeah, he’s basically a mix of Batman, James Bond and Scooby Doo. This is a series of three novels that I first read about in Paperbacks from Hell. I spent a stupid amount of time and money tracking down old paperback copies, but I saw a few days ago that you can actually buy kindle versions off Amazon.

satan sleuth fallen angel avalloneThe Satan Sleuth #1:  Fallen Angel
Mews Books – 1976 (First Published 1974)
This is the Satan Sleuth’s origin story. A gang of weirdos break into a young millionaire’s house and kill his wife in the name of Satan. He gets super upset and decides to hunt them down for revenge. Luckily for him, the Satanists come back to his house right after he has filled it with Satanist catching equipment. What follows is essentially a slightly less violent version of Home Alone.

This is the most dated book in the collection. Of the four criminals, one is described as “A walking moron, even if she was the best and free-est piece of tail in the world. With the biggest boobs.” She is repeatedly and brutally beaten and berated by her boyfriend for being dim. The Satan Sleuth shows her no leniency despite the fact that she was clearly coerced into partaking in the murder by her brutal and manipulative partner.

Another of the Satanists is “gay as a green goose when the bare asses were down”. He is also referred to as a “Fruitman”, and a “damn pineapple”, and it is insinuated that he gets off on brutally murdering a woman because he is gay. This kind of stuff is pretty distasteful in 2019, but this book was a written almost half a century ago by a man who was approaching 50. It’s hardly surprising.

satan sleuth avallone

Early on in the novel, the hero decides to do some research on Satanism so that he can understand his enemies. He gives his lawyer a list of books on the occult and has him track these down. I recognised a few of the names on the list, but some I had never heard of before, despite their amazing titles. I had to do some sleuthing myself to figure out which were real and which were Michael Avallone’s own creations.

satan sleuth book list.jpg

Possession by T.K. Oesterreich, The Satanic Mass by H.T.F. Rhodes, During Sleep by Robert Crookall, The Magus by Francis Barrett, Timeless Earth by Peter Kolosimo, Gypsies, Demons and Divinities by Elwood B. Trigg, Your Sixth Sense by Brad Steiger and The Satanic Rituals by Anton La Vey are all very real books.

Where the Devil Walks by Marcel Alevoinne sounds great, but the author’s name struck me as rather similar to Michael Avallone. It turns out that Marcel Alevoinne was actually a pseudonym that Avallone used to use to order take-out.

Lucifer, My King by Jean-Anne de Pré also sounds incredible, but I discovered that Avallone used Jean Anne de Pré as a pseudonym for several gothic novels including The Third Woman, A Sound of Dying Roses, Warlock’s Woman, Die, Jessica, Die and Aquarius, My Evil. Unfortunately, I can find no evidence to suggest that a book called Lucifer, My King was ever written

Mark Dane, the author of Beyond our Ken is yet another of Avallone’s many pseudonyms.

This leaves one book, The Blask Mass (sic) by Sidney Stuart. I couldn’t find anything on this one online. It turns out that Sidney Stuart was the name of one of Michael Avallone’s early agents, so it’s likely that book is also a fake.

 

satan sleuth the werewolf walks tonight avalloneThe Satan Sleuth #2: The Werewolf Walks Tonight
Warner Paperback Library – 1974

This one is about a werewolf instead of Satanists. It was not published as part of the UK Mews edition of the series, so my copy of this book and my copy of Devil, Devil (the third book in the series) are both labelled #2 on their covers. I didn’t like this one as the other two. Maybe the Brits felt the same and that’s why they chose to leave it out.

satan sleuth number 2Two #2s

The most interesting part of this book was the way it pushes the reader back and forth between believing/not believing in the supernatural. There are times when the text flat out says that nothing supernatural is occurring and other times when it says the opposite. In truth, I’m a bit unsure as to whether this was intentional or just sloppy writing. The time sequence in this one is confusing too, and I can’t help but feel that it would have benefited with a bit of proofreading.

Oh, and this book features another mentally challenged woman with “splendid round breasts” being brutally raped. She is referred to as both “a peacherino” and “prime cut beef”.

satan sleuth devil, devilThe Satan Sleuth #3: Devil, Devil
Mews Books – 1976 (First Published 1975)

This was probably my favourite out of the three. Not only does the Satan Sleuth find himself in the clutches of a coven of evil Satanists, but the ringleader of the coven is named Catharine Copely! Any Satan Sleuth worth their salt will surely recognize the Satanic relevance of the name Copely. Canon Copely-Syle, the strange mix between Montague Summers and Aleister Crowley, is the antagonist in Dennis Wheatley’s classic To the Devil – a Daughter. The Satan Sleuth series was written more than 20 years after Wheatley’s book, so maybe Avallone had read it and decided to pay homage. (If not, there’s some weird synchronicity going on. Copely Woods is also name given by Budd Hopkins to an area of high UFO activity in the Eastern United States.)

The women in this one still have big jugs, but they’re not as dim as the ladies in the other entries of this series. The main antagonist here is female, but unfortunately, she meets her doom after being charmed by the Satan Sleuth’s snake. She decides not to sacrifice him to Satan after seeing him lying naked, unconscious and strapped to the altar. “But this man – this intruder – whoever he truly was – was gifted in every conceivable department. He was superbly endowed. Pan would envied him for his incredible appendage. The principal male tendon was a thing of beauty, even dormant and idle. The Ram’s staff!” Sister Sorrow may not have been mentally deficient, but she was unable to resist a nice juicy cock.

 

Avallone is infamous for the rate at which he wrote paperback fiction. To be honest, I got the sense that these three books were churned out fairly quickly. There’s a few spelling mistakes in each of these novels, and Avallone is remarkably fond of sentence fragments. Really. So many it’s silly. Seriously. Also, in the last book it seems that he’s using the word “cockamamie” at least once every two pages.

When my copies of these books arrived, I saw the following line on the back cover of Fallen Angel and was instantly satisfied with my purchase.
satan sleuth dennis wheatleyDennis Wheatley, for any Philistines reading this, is the author that made me want to start this blog. After having read all three Satan Sleuth novels, I have to say that aside from dodgy writing and less than progressive depictions of women and homosexuals, Avallone’s books have very little in common with Wheatley’s. Black magic is a powerful force in Wheatley’s novels, but the supernatural is always presented as a farce in the Satan Sleuth series. Avallone would later claim that this was the reason that this series didn’t get more attention (source). I reckon he was right about this. By the time I got to the third book, I knew that anything spooky that happened would be explained away later on. This cuts out a lot of suspense. Why did he write his books this way? Well, I reckon that it had something to do with the fact that Avallone, despite what it says on the blurb at the back of Fallen Angel, was not nearly as knowledgeable on Satanism and Black Magic as our Dennis.

satan sleuth avallone occult expert

At one point he refers to the werewolf as a Lycanthrophobe, and when his hero is going up against a team of Satanists, Avallone has him read a bunch of books on ESP, Ancient Aliens and fairies. There’s no rhyme or reason to the Satanism presented in the Satan Sleuth novels either. The Satanists in the first novel are Satanists by name only. Sure they murder a woman for the glory of Satan, but there’s no real spiritual or philosophical motivation behind their crime.  None of them believe in what they are doing. They’re just a bunch of drugged out social outcasts who occasionally say dumb things like, “God sucked. Lucifer was right. Make way for Beelzebub!”

The last book presents a Satanism far closer to the Satanism presented in Wheatley’s novels, but unlike Wheatley, Avallone doesn’t manage to explain why the Satanists are acting the way they are. They’re just bad for the sake of being bad here. There’s a few references to the Church of Satan that suggest that Avallone didn’t really know what he was talking about.

2

Anton LaVey’s Satanism deserves to be criticized, but it’s not fair to present his followers as the kind of people who murder and decapitate young women. I’m not misrepresenting things here either. Sister Sorrow, the villain of Devil, Devil is seen reading from The Satanic Bible only a page after Avallone quotes from the Satanic Rituals, LaVey’s companion text to his Satanic Bible. I can’t imagine any way of reading this that doesn’t suggest that the fiends in this book are LaVeyan Satanists.

satan sleuth lavey quote

Satanism exists in so many forms, and it’s such a silly concept to begin with, that I’m not going to hold it against an author if they mix it up a bit. The Satan Sleuth series is far more straight forward than Paradise Lost or Goethe’s Faust. In Avallone’s work, Satan and his followers are categorically bad. I’m fine with this. I wasn’t exactly expecting profound philosophical fiction when I bought these books. These are fun adventure stories, and they work as such.

In Paperbacks from Hell, Grady Hendrix writes that “Avallone planned two more Satan Sleuth novels—Vampires Wild and Zombie Depot—but Warner Books never bought them, so he never wrote them.” This is not true. Both Vampires Wild and Zombie Depot were written, but as of today they remain unpublished. David Avallone, Michael’s son, has confirmed that he is working on having the final two Satan Sleuth novels published later on this year. (David also helped me figure out where some of the books mentioned in Fallen Angel came from. Thanks David!) I’ll be reviewing the final entries in the series as shortly after they’re released as possible!

The Bighead – Edward Lee

the bighead edward leeThe Bighead – Edward Lee
Overlook Connection Press – 1999
Edward Lee’s The Bighead has a reputation for being one of the grossest books ever written. After reading it, I can confirm that it is truly disgusting. I had to put it down after certain chapters and wait a while before I read more. The ordeals faced by the characters in this book are so repulsive that the reader suffers along with them. This book literally made me squirm. It’s the kind of thing that you’ll be reading and then start to think “What kind of sick perverts read this stuff?”, only to realise that you yourself belong to that group of sick perverts. Honestly, if I saw someone reading this book on the bus, I’d probably get off at a different stop from them.

This is the story of two pretty girls from the big city coming to visit one of their aunts in the countryside. Unfortunately, their trip is interrupted by a rampaging backwoods mutant named the Bighead. There’s an video of Lee online in which he notes that many horror stories have a similar premise. I reviewed a book called Blood Rite a few months ago that was also about a girl trapped in the woods with violent redneck monsters. That book was awful because it was boring. The Bighead avoids this by taking an almost identical premise but pumping it absolutely chock-full of obscene, disgusting, perverse acts of depravity. There’s one part where a redneck empties a pensioner’s colostomy bag over her recently exposed brains, just for the fun of it. The tagline on the back cover reads “Rape. Murder. Brain-Eating…” That’s a pretty concise way of summing it up. Maybe ‘poo-eating’ could have been added to that list too. There’s LOTS of poo-eating.

I knew this book was going to be gross, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as entertaining as it is. The characters are nicely developed, and apart from the gory, disgusting bits, there’s actually some genuinely creepy stuff going on in here involving an abandoned hospice for dying priests and the ghosts of two of the sadistic nuns that used to work there.

the bighead erik wilsonEach chapter has a computer generated illustration. Maybe they looked good in 1999, but they haven’t aged very well.

Two versions of The Bighead have been published. The original publishers requested that Lee change some details of the book’s ending. The second edition restored the original ending. The latter version is referred to as ‘the author’s preferred text’, and it’s the one I read. I read somewhere that Lee actually changed his mind again and that he now prefers the first edition’s ending. (So the ‘author’s preferred text’ is actually not the author’s preferred text.) I was very mildly disappointed with the ending of the version I read, but I think I’d probably be saying the same thing if I had read the other one. As far as I know, the endings differ only in their explanation of the Bighead’s origins. Personally, I didn’t feel the need for explanations.

Overall, I was very impressed. The Bighead is sick, but it’s actually really enjoyable. There were a few parts of this book that had me laughing very loudly. I have two more novels by Lee on my shelf, and I am looking forward to reading both.
edward lee slither flesh gothic.jpg

2018, The Year in Review

In 2018, I reviewed books about Satanic Communists, intergalactic Nazis, Trump voting necrophiles, sodomaniacal vampires, Sado-shamans, and an another Alien Jesus – and that’s not mentioning the fiction. I published more posts, wrote more words, reviewed more books and saw more traffic this year than any year previous. I did best-of posts for 2016 and 2017, but for 2018 I’m going to go all out and indulge myself with a full post on this blog and its upkeep. I’ll post a new review early next week, so come back then if you’re only interested in the books.

paperback wall horror occult.jpg
Most of this year’s acquisitions have been trade paperbacks.

I read and reviewed far more fiction this year than ever before.  There’s two reasons for this. I became sick and tired of reading long, boring occult books. They’re expensive, they take ages to read, and they’re usually absolutely awful. The second factor was Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell. I’ve been reviewing horror fiction since 2015, but Hendrix’s book opened my eyes to the realms of trashy horror. I’ve long known that books like these existed, I just wasn’t sure which were worth reading. It turns out that it’s most of them.

Some of the Paperbacks from Hell I read this year.

I already had a few of the books featured in PFH on my to-read list, but PFH’s popularity made some of these books scarce, and I ended up shelling out quite a bit of cash to grab copies before they were impossible to find.

satan series brian mcnaughton starI had been meaning to buy copies of these for ages. Their inclusion in Paperbacks from Hell has made them rather difficult to track down for a reasonable price.

After enjoying the transition from classic Gothic horror to modern trashy paperback horror, I allowed myself to go even further and visited the strange world of Bizarro Fiction. I wasn’t sure if those books belonged on a blog like this, but whatever. I’ll post whatever I want. I’ve enjoyed wallowing in the trash swamp recently, but I’m planning on reading some more high-brow horror in the near future to even things out. (I’ve actually been rereading all of Lovecraft’s work since shortly after publishing this review. I didn’t think it was anything special, but it’s been one of my most popular posts this year. Expect more Lovecraft posts in 2019.)

Magical Books from the internet.

The past few months have seen me returning to occult literature. Instead of paying ridiculous money for awful books, I’m downloading pdf copies online, and instead of slogging through dense, arcane tomes of esotericism, I’m breezing through idiotic pamphlet length grimoires. It’s the same crap; it’s just easier to stomach when I’m confronted with 50 pages of nonsense instead of 500. This has allowed me to publish 2 posts per week for the last few months, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue at this pace. I have a few ideas for multi-book posts for the near future that will probably slow things down considerably. They’ll be worth the wait.

I usually do a top 10 posts of the year list around this time. It’s harder to choose this year because there’s more posts than ever before. I’ll just say that my reviews of Raped by the Devil, Marx and Satan, Ghoul, Space Gate, The Veil Removed, Masks of the Illuminati, Psychopathia Sexualis, Nox Infernus, Satanicon, and Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy are pretty good. Also, my short “splatterpunk” story, Kevin is worth a look.

Best of 2018

All that being said, the most important post of the year was doubtlessly on Spawn of the Devil by Aristotle Levi, an exceedingly rare work of occult erotica. If you haven’t read this post, please take a look.

spawn of the devil - aristotle leviDefinitely not a book that you’d want to judge by its cover.

Running this blog can be quite frustrating. I put in a lot of effort and often don’t see much of a response. You won’t find reviews of some of these books on any other sites, and lots of them aren’t even listed on Goodreads. Search engines don’t bring much traffic to these posts because nobody ever googles the names of these books. I could probably do a better job promoting this stuff on social media, but I’d far prefer to spend my time reading and writing about weird books. If you could share this blog with somebody you know who’d be interested, it would be super appreciated!

Happy new year!

 

We Sold Our Souls – Grady Hendrix

we sold our souls grady hendrixWe Sold Our Souls – Grady Hendrix
Quirk – 2018

The story of a metal band that sold their souls to the devil and their climactic final concert… hang on, didn’t I just review this book?

Fuck it, all heavy metal rips off Black Sabbath, and it’s a metal tradition to wear ones influences on ones sleeves (literally), so we don’t need to worry if the plot of Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls sounds a little like that of The Scream. Anyways, We Sold Our Souls is the better novel. The characters are more likable, the scary parts are scarier, and while The Scream name-drops U2 and Madonna, We Sold Our Souls has a chapter named after the best Napalm Death album.

Yes. Unlike most of the authors writing about rock music that I’ve encountered, Grady Hendrix doesn’t come across as a total poser. This book references Bathory and Mercyful Fate! Can you remember the time I expressed my desire to read a book about “Glenn Danzig fighting off werewolves in an attempt to track down a copy of a cursed, unreleased Morbid Angel demo”? This book is probably the closest I’ll ever get. It is a truly metal horror novel. The writing is good too; I actually enjoyed the process of reading this book.

Hard rock and horror sounds like the perfect combination, but writing an entirely satisfying rock-shocker seems to be an impossible task. While the bands Dürt Würk, Ghoul, Vargr, FiascoWhip Hand, Celestial PraylinThe Scream and Lost Souls? all sound like they sound amazing, the reader is always left a little underwhelmed by the absence of actual riffage. No matter how good a writer is, they won’t be able to accurately describe a piece of music in writing, especially if their reader has never heard that music. I get a bit antsy when a book spends multiple pages describing a song that I can’t hear, but maybe this is for the best. If I can’t hear the riff, I can’t reasonably say I don’t like it. Still, I’m hoping that We Sold Our Souls is turned into a movie and somebody cool is hired to write the soundtrack.

I’ll keep this review short because this is a new book and there’s a tonne of other reviews online now. I don’t have much to say other than I really enjoyed We Sold Our Souls. It was one of those “I can’t wait to get off work and read on the bus” books. This is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a book during its year of publication. It’s also the last rock’n’roll book I’ll be reading this year. It’s fitting that the book is by Grady Hendrix as several of the rock novels I reviewed this year were featured in his awesome Paperbacks from Hell.

Keep on rockin.

 

The Scream – John Skipp and Craig Spector

the scream skipp spector.jpgThe Scream – John Skipp and Craig Spector
Bantam Books – 1988

A demon possessed, sadistic, post-metal cyber-thrash band attempts to raise Hell on Earth by sacrificing thousands of its fans in horrendous acts of brutal violence. The only people capable of stopping these monsters are a group of heavily armed Vietnam Veterans turned rockstars. How could a book with this plot be anything but amazing?

Hang on. I’ll tell you now.

The Scream is far too long, it has too many characters that don’t matter, and its characterization ratio is a mess. I felt like I knew far more about Pastor Furniss, an insignificant minor character who we get to watch masturbate in the shower, than I did about Jake Hamer, the books hero. Sure, I know that Jake went through Hell in the ‘Nam, but I never really cared. In fact, the entire Vietnam subplot of the book is an unnecessary distraction from the main story. When a book ends with (spoiler alert) an enormous monster stuffing human corpses into its hungry vagina with its own proboscular cock, the readers don’t need a good explanation of where this thing came from. Saying it originated in the jungles of Vietnam is a bit underwhelming. As it stands, The Scream reads like three distinct stories (Rambo, Spinal Tap and Peter Jackson’s Braindead/Dead Alive) that were hastily sewn together – there’s just a bit too much going on.

Like Ghoul (another late 80s book about an evil rock band), The Scream also presents rock music in a confusing light. The authors rail against evangelical attacks on heavy metal, but the real bad guys in this book are the musicians, not the clergy. I suppose that’s just the nature of the beast though. Nice boys don’t play rock’n’roll.

All that said, The Scream is undeniably entertaining. The gore in here is very enjoyable, and it gets more and more intense as the book goes on. The novel culminates in a true splatterfest. Also, this is the only book I’ve ever read, probably the only ever written, to contain the word “vomitcumshitslime”.

I wish that the eponymous band at the heart of the novel were real. I really wish I could hear their music. This book was published in 1988, before the world got news of those Norwegian metallers killing each other, and while the gore in this book is absurd, the notion of murder music presented in here seems prophetic in retrospect.

Despite the abundant gore and the inclusion of perhaps the coolest imaginary band of all time, The Scream is not a great book. It’s a bit like dinner at McDonalds – it’s mucho enjoyable while it’s going in, but it leaves you feeling slightly unfulfilled after you’re done with it. This book is trash, a perfect example of a Paperback from Hell, and I knew that it would be when I started reading it. While I can’t say The Scream was amazing, I also cant say it was disappointing.

Would I read another book by this pair of authors?

dead lines skipp spector.jpgDefinitely.