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.

The Kill Riff – David J. Schow

the kill riff schowThe Kill Riff – David J. Schow
Futura – 1990 (First published 1987)

I wanted to like The Kill Riff. It has a cool name, it has cool covers, and it’s the first novel by the guy who supposedly coined the term “splatterpunk”. Everything about it seemed promising. Unfortunately, this was a fairly crumby novel.

It’s about Lucas, a dude who spends his time hunting down members of a rock group because his daughter died at one of their concerts. The narrative switches between his story and the experiences of Gabriel Stannard, the singer of Whip Hand. Regardless of his responsibility for the death of Lucas’s daughter, this Gabriel guy deserves to die for being such a damn poser. Somewhere in the second half of the book, it becomes apparent that Lucas is also a huge arse, and by the end of the book, I was really hoping that both of these lads would die horribly.

The main characters are obnoxious, and the secondary characters are described in a frustrating amount of detail. There are whole chapters on characters that have no bearing on the actual story. There are also embarrassingly lengthy discussions of psychology that do nothing but slow things down. The book does contain some scenes of brutal violence, but they’re lost in a frustratingly slow plot. The Kill Riff weighs in at 400 pages. It would have been far more effective and enjoyable at 200.

David Schow does his best to let his reader know that he is actually a rock fan. He doesn’t care for post-Roth Van Halen, and he includes a paragraph on the Mentors for no reason. It’s usually a novelty when an author name-drops a band I like, but Schow does it so often that it actually seems a bit desperate. We get it bro, you like guitar solos.

I’m being pretty negative here. I have read books that were far, far worse than The Kill Riff. I just think this was a wasted opportunity. It’s a solid idea for a book, but it literally needed more killer and less filler. I’ve got a few more rock’n’roll themed books lined up that I’m hoping to finish by the end of the year. Stay tuned.

More Fuckin’ Vampires – Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls

poppy z brite lost soulsLost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite
Penguin – 1994 (first published 1992)

I had no idea what this book was going to be about when I bought it. I was a bit disappointed once I realised it was about vampires, but I was already too far in to consider switching to something else.

It turned out to be far gayer (it’s absolutely full of dudes kissing dudes) and far more goth than I was expecting, but I actually really liked it.

Lost Souls ticks all of the necessary boxes for it to be classified as Gothic literature. I know wikipedia isn’t authoritative by any means, but it currently lists the following as the defining elements of Gothic fiction:

Virginal maiden – “young, beautiful, pure, innocent, kind, virtuous and sensitive. Usually starts out with a mysterious past and it is later revealed that she is the daughter of an aristocratic or noble family.” Nothing, the mysterious teenager is revealed to be the son of a Vampire. He’s virginal in the sense that he has not yet drank blood.
Hero Ghost, the sensitive, caring weirdo is undoubtedly the hero of this story.
Tyrant/villain/evil characters Zillah is a classic Gothic villain, absolutely self-absorbed and evil.
Bandits/ruffians Zillah’s two goons, Twig and Molochai.
The setting – “The plot is usually set in a castle, an abbey, a monastery, or some other, usually religious edifice, and it is acknowledged that this building has secrets of its own. This gloomy and frightening scenery sets the scene for what the audience has already come to expect. “ Most of the book is set in New Orleans graveyards, dingy, dimly lit rock concerts, and an archaic magic shop.
Night journeys Ghost and Steve do an awful lot of driving at night, the vampires also.
Madness The vampire’s bloodlust/Steve’s lack of self control
Miraculous survivals Christian survives being shot in the chest. Zillah recovers from a baseball-bat smashed face.

Lost Souls is clearly a Gothic novel, but more noticeably, it’s a goth novel. I use the word “goth” here in the teenage Skinny Puppy fan sense of the word. The book takes its title from its hero’s angsty, mystical rock band, and I think all of the other characters in the book have long, dyed-black hair.

south park goth kidsLost Souls is exactly the kind of book that these kids would read.

The protagonist of the book is 15 years old, and his name is Nothing. He cuts himself and runs away from home because his parents don’t understand him… I found the 32 year old part of me cringing occasionally while reading through this, but my inner angsty teenager loved every page.

Lost Souls is a pretty cool book, quite a few steps above some of the modern horror I’ve reviewed here recently. I look forward to reading more of Poppy Z. Brite’s books in the future.

Halloween Novelizations

curtis richards halloween corgi

Halloween – Curtis Richards
Corgi – 1980 (First published 1979)
I wasn’t yet capable of deciding whether a film was bad or good when I first saw the original Halloween movie. It was a horror film that my parents didn’t know I was watching, and that was enough to make me think it was awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever rewatched it. I know I also saw Halloween H2O in a friends house when I was a kid, and I watched the Rob Zombie remake when it came out in the cinema, but I can’t pretend that I have ever been a dedicated fan of the Halloween series.

It might then seem strange that the first movie novelization that I would ever read would be Halloween. I had read about how rare this book was, and when I saw a copy going for a single dollar, I couldn’t resist. I quite enjoyed the book, but it’s not worth the $12,000 that some sellers are asking for. Do yourself a favour and download the pdf version that’s floating about the internet instead.

Part of this novelization’s appeal is its inclusion of background information and plot details that are not present in the movie. There’s a backstory here about the weird druidy-curse that is to blame for Michael Myers’ bloodlust. Most reviews praised these additions, but others claimed that they detracted from the mystery of the film. I thought they were fine. I haven’t watched the movie in almost 20 years, so I won’t try to lay out any comparisons here; there’s other reviews online that already do that. I had no real desire to rewatch the movie after reading the book either; it was enjoyable enough as a standalone text.

I finished reading the first Halloween novelization at lunch time last Sunday and then started listening to an audiobook recording of the novelization of the second Halloween movie only a couple of hours later. In a way it makes sense to do things this way; the second movie picks up directly where the first left off, but in retrospect, I think going directly from one to the other was probably a mistake.

halloween 2 jack martinHalloween II – Jack Martin (Dennis Etchison)
Zebra – 1981

The first fifth of the second novelization is basically the exact same thing as the last quarter of the first novelization. It retells how the first movie ends in order to set the scene for the rest of the book. This would be handy if you had taken some time between the two texts, but it made going directly from one to the other quite tedious. Although written by different authors, these parts of both books are based on the same part of the same movie, and this makes for a very boring start.

Things didn’t get much better. While the novelization of Halloween adds a new dimension to the story told in the movie, the second book is a more faithful novelization. It only briefly alludes to the druidic origin of the Myers’ curse, and this time round the reader never gets to see things from Michael’s perspective. Without these elements, the second book feels like a slightly different series to the first book.

Also, I haven’t seen it, but the second movie isn’t supposed to be as good as the first, and a straight novelization doesn’t make the story any better. There’s a lot of unnecessary character development and pointless crap in here. Why did Michael visit the school? Why the hell was that boring rubbish about the drunk trucker included? I was listening an audiobook version too, turning a dull 90 minute movie into a very dull 5 and half hour listening experience. Maybe it would have been more enjoyable if I had watched the movie beforehand, but I don’t honestly see how that could have been the case.

I was going to listen to the audiobook versions of Halloween 3 and 4 for this post, but I decided that it would actually make more sense just to watch the movies. Unfortunately, I didnt have the time. Also, the new Halloween movie comes out today, and it is supposed to be a direct sequel to the first film (even though it’s actually the 9th movie in the series, not including remakes). Halloween H2O and Halloween Resurrection, the 6th and 7th sequels, continued the story from the end of Halloween 2, ignoring the events of Halloween 3, 4, 5 and 6, but the new Halloween movie is going one step further than this, disregarding everything but the original 1978 movie. (So the 11th Halloween movie is technically the third Halloween 2. Complicated, right?) Well, if the people who actually make these movies are willing to ignore Halloween 3 and 4, I reckon I probably should too.

Have a spooky one!

Lowering the Tone

ASS GOBLINS OF AUSCHWITZAss Goblins of Auschwitz – Cameron Pierce
Eraserhead Press – 2009

Ugh… Hmmmmm….. Ehhhhhh…….

This book first showed up on my radar a few years ago when an uncle jokingly posted an image of its cover to my facebook wall. (I think I deleted his post so that my woke friends wouldn’t give me any hassle.) I came across the book’s title again until I was reading about Bizarro fiction for my review of Carlton Mellick III’s The Cannibals of Candyland. I found a copy very easily, and before I knew it I was actually sitting on the bus to work reading Ass Goblins of Auschwitz.

There were a few moments at the beginning when a part of me (probably a few parts actually) told me to stop reading. There weren’t any specific events in the text that prompted this; it was more the realisation that I was giving attention to a person who was shamelessly looking for attention. The book isn’t about the real Auschwitz or real Nazis, and while that’s fortunate in some ways, it’s a let down in others. Cameron Pierce wasn’t making a bold statement about human nature, resilience or suffering. He was using the word Auschwitz because that word would make people notice his silly book.

I used to work in a coffee shop. One day a man walked into the shop with a live parrot on his shoulder. Every single customer in the shop commented on his parrot. When the man got to me and asked for a cinnamon bun, I told him it would be 3 dollars and took his money quietly. I met his hopeful stare, but I refused to let my eyes wander to the colourful talking bird perched on his shoulder. I would not give him that satisfaction. I hate people who shamelessly look for attention. Shove that parrot up your ass, you stupid wanker.Seriously, what kind of a brazen dipshit has to resort to that kind of bullshit to start up conversations?

Anyways, the actual story in here is far too childish to truly offend. It’s just silly teenage nonsense. There was one part where a man absorbs a bike into his scrotum, and I wondered if this was a nod to Flann O’Brien’s Third Policeman, a real masterpiece of absurd fiction. The rest was forgettable garbage – big walking bums abuse children and shit out swastikas. There was one part that made me laugh out loud, but I have a remarkably childish sense of humour, so a single LOL from 100 pages worth of pooing bums is actually surprisingly low.

I’m not usually this harsh when it comes to reviewing fiction, but I can’t ignore these issues. In fairness though, this book was published when the author was only 21 or so. I wrote some fairly embarrassing stuff when I was that age too, so I won’t hold this book against him. He seems to have deleted/frozen his web presence in the last 2 years. I wonder if he’s still writing.