The Slime Beast – Guy N. Smith

Guy N. Smith – The Slime Beast

Harper Collins – 1989 (Originally published 1974)

I read The Festering, my first Guy N. Smith novel, a few weeks ago, and I greatly enjoyed it. I picked it because of its cover, and I decided that the next of Smith’s books I would read would be one of his more esteemed works. I chose The Slime Beast as I knew that the illustrious Centipede Press had reissued this one in a fine hardback edition.

A cranky professor takes his assistant and niece out to a muddy beach to look for treasure. During an excavation, they uncover a sleeping monster that smells so vile that they puke all over each other. Later that night, the monster comes alive and starts to kill people.

The plot doesn’t really make sense. The characters don’t act like people at all. They decide to sleep in an abandoned shack for several nights in a row when there is a bloodthirsty monster on the prowl. There’s reasons given for their behaviour, but none of them hold up. Mr. Smith clearly didn’t give much of a shit for plotting. He just wanted to get to the slimy bits. This was a relief to be honest.

This is not a good book, but I found it very entertaining. I liked the emphasis on the monster’s stink. Every time he shows up, his rotten stench makes people throw up. There’s not much else to say about this book. It’s 144 pages of pure garbage. It’s pretty great though. I wholeheartedly recommend that you find a copy and read it immediately.

The Feminists’ Revenge – Shelley Hyde’s Blood Fever

Blood Fever – Shelley Hyde

Pocket Books – 1982

This book starts off with a man smashing his wife’s face in with a fire poker after he gets home from work. In fairness, he only does so in self defense, and a local police officer lets him out of jail after the cop’s daughter turns up dead at the site of another brutal murder. The first half of the book deals with these lads slowly figuring out that the town of Broughton is plagued with a virus that is turning its women into crazed savages with an insatiable lust for men’s blood.

It was the second book in a row that I read that featured a woman name Arlene suddenly going mad and trying to murder her husband. When I started it, I wasn’t expecting it to be any good, but I ended up really liking it. My biggest complaint was that it feels as if the author was going for that Stephen King thing of making the town itself the protagonist. The problem is that Blood Fever is only 188 pages, less than half the length of Salem’s Lot. There’s too many characters and not enough character development to make them distinguishable. Aside from that, the writing is decent. I mean, this is trash, but its fast paced and interesting enough. I was a bit surprised to see on goodreads that this is Shelley Hyde’s only novel. I was not surprised when some further research showed that Shelley Hyde was actually a pseudonym of Kit Reed, an award winning author of some 30 novels.

Really, it’s baffling that this book doesn’t have more of a cult following. It features a group of feminists who lose their minds, take over a ranch and brutally murder any men who come within sniffing distance. Seriously. How has this masterpiece remained in obscurity for so long? Blood Fever should be mandatory reading for all university students taking gender studies classes.

I liked this book a lot. You should track a copy down and read it.

Throwback by Mark Manley

Throwback – Mark Manley

Popular Library – 1987

I’m sure menopause is uncomfortable for a lot of women, but Arlene has it worse than most. There’s a lump growing on her spine, and it’s making life very uncomfortable. When it’s x-rayed, her doctors are horrified to see a bone structure developing inside it.

Written in 1987, Mark Manley’s Throwback is a hugely enjoyable work of trashy horror. It’s fast paced, competently written, and it features a gang of dog-fucking punk-rockers attempting to rape a woman with a giant bloodthirsty rat growing out of her back. Seriously, what else could you ask for?

Yes, when Arlene’s hideous boil finally pops, the head, arms and torso of a giant carniverous rodent emerge and begin to subsume Arlene’s body and soul. Arlene is what her backwoods ancestors called a ‘Throwback’. Her DNA contains patterns from a far earlier form of life, and those strains are becoming dominant. Arlene somehow maintains a psychic link with her daughter, Sharon, and Sharon has to do her best to end her mom’s killing spree.

I don’t know what else to say about this one. That’s the beauty of this kind of book though. You’re not supposed to have much to say. It makes promise on the cover and delivers in the text. It was a lot of fun. If you’re not already looking for a copy after reading this review, I doubt we have much in common. This is pure trash, but it’s exactly the kind of book that I want to read right now. Short, weird and gross. Perfect.

James Howard Kunstler’s The Hunt

The Hunt – James Howard Kunstler

Tor Books – 1988

Billy, a pathetic frigid, invites cool dude R.J. on a camping trip to find bigfoot. The back cover of the book suggests that he is really inviting R.J. so that he can kill him, but this isn’t actually what the book is about. The thought of harming his friend does pass through his head when they’re on the camping trip, but only as a passing fancy.

The two lads eventually run into a gang of Bigfoot (bigfeet?), and they manage to kill one of the beasts. Unfortunately, on their way home, R.J. gets hit by a car and their bigfoot corpse gets lost in the woods.

There are a few other little bits and pieces going on in this story, but that’s the basic plot. Let me tell you why it’s stupid.

There’s too much character development for this kind of book. Billy is a little incel nerd, and he’s clearly extremely jealous of R.J. There’s a lot of backstory here, and it’s probably the most entertaining part of the book. But this is supposed to be a violent horror novel about bloodthirsty bigfeet, not a soap opera. Sure, we know why Billy is jealous of his friend, but we have no idea why he decides to try to catch a bigfoot. The revenge/jealousy part of the book has nothing to do with the Bigfoot part.

The ending is a cop-out. Yes, Billy still has the photos of the bigfoot, but by the end, I didn’t give a shit about that part of the book. I wanted to know if he was going to kill R.J. or not. That’s the story this book is set up to tell. R.J. getting hit by a car is a painful deus ex machina.

There are a few bits with bloodthirsty bigfeet, but they take up maybe 2 of the 200 or so pages of this utterly shit book. The book is called The Hunt, but “The Awkward Camping Trip” would be a far more appropriate title. (As a matter of fact, the original title of this book was “Bagging Bigfoot”. I once read a book called “Boffing Bigfoot“.)

This book tries to do several things, but it fails at all of them. Avoid this rubbish.

Summertime Reading: A few more Paperbacks from Hell – Miss Finney Kills Now and Then, The Stigma and The Tribe

paperbacks from hell summerI’ve read quite a few paperback horror novels over the summer. Most of them are throwaway reads that don’t justify a post of their own, so I’ve been grouping them by series, authors and publishers. (Expect posts on William Johnstone’s horror novels, J.N. Williams’s Martin Ruben series, Richard Jaccoma’s Werewolf series, and random Zebra and Tor books showing up here in the next few months.) The books in this post have nothing to do with each other aside from the fact that they were all featured in Grady Hendrix’s and Will Errickson’s Paperbacks From Hell and also reviewed by those guys online. I don’t feel a need to go into much detail with these books as Grady and Will have done so already.

 

the stigma trevor hoyleThe Stigma – Trevor Hoyle
Sphere Books- 1980
This book starts off very serious, and there’s a bunch of references to real witch trials and the Brontë family that got me excited. I’ve never reviewed Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights on this blog, but they’re two of my favourite books, and the Brontë references left me moist. There were also some fairly scary moments, and by the halfway mark I was wondering if it was really fair for a book like this to have been listed alongside the work of J.N. Williamson in the pages of Paperbacks From Hell. Then I got to the bit where a naughty dog tries to rape someone and had to reevaluate my stance. Things get grosser and sillier as the book comes to a close, and the ending alone warrants its inclusion in PFH. This is ultimately quite a silly book, but I enjoyed it.

I decided to buy The Stigma after reading about it in PFH, but like so many of the texts featured therein, cheap copies of The Stigma became scarce for a while. I paid more than I should have a year and a half ago, but it seems that there’s loads of affordable copies online again now. Grady Hendrix also wrote a more elaborate review of this book for Tor.com

 

miss finney kills al dempseyMiss Finney Kills Now and Then – Al Dempsey
Tor 1989 (First published 1982)
This is the story of an old woman who can grow younger by murdering people. I found it very enjoyable. The characters are more interesting than I expected, and the plot, while obviously ludicrous, is pretty entertaining. When I was buying this at a thriftstore, there were two copies. One had a slightly classier looking cover featuring a bloody dagger, but I obviously went for the hideous hag one. I discovered Grady Hendrix’s review of this book right after finishing it and then realised that it’s actually featured on the front cover of Paperbacks from Hell. Will Errickson also reviewed Miss Finney. He hated it.

 

the tribe bari woodThe Tribe – Bari Wood
Signet – 1981
I saw a copy of this at a used bookstore a few weeks back and picked it up. I couldn’t remember reading about it, but I knew it was recently republished under Valancourt’s Paperback from Hell reissue series, so I assumed it would be pretty good.

This is definitely a cut above the other two books in this post. It’s actually a well written novel with an exciting plot and complex characters. It deals with complicated issues in a way that doesn’t get pedantic or preachy. The Tribe tells a story that makes you think. Will Errickson and Grady Hendrix both commented on the effectiveness of the prologue, and I can confirm that it’s pretty great. I can’t imagine anyone reading the first 20 pages of this book without wanting to read the rest.

Oh yeah, it’s about a murderous Golem in New York, but don’t let that put you off. It’s actually fucking great.

After having read The Tribe and enjoying it so much, I definitely aim to read the other Paperbacks From Hell that Valancourt are reissuing.

 

Well, there you go. These books were amoung the better horror novels I read over the summer. Thanks to Grady and Will for the recommendations.

Blood Rite – Michael Falconer Anderson

blood rite michael falconer andersonBlood Rite – Michael Falconer Anderson
St. Martin’s Press – 1988

In 1988, the only things an individual needed to become a published author were the imagination to come up with an unpleasant scenario, the ability to construct grammatical sentences, and the patience to compose enough of these sentences to fill 150 pages. Blood Rite has a setting, some characters and a beginning, middle and end. It doesn’t have much else.

The premise of this book is that 2 satanic zombies have risen from their graves to go on a killing spree in the woods. This is obviously a very silly idea, but silly plots don’t necessarily make shitty books. With a bit of humour and self awareness, this could easily have been turned into an entertaining story. Unfortunately for everyone though, there is absolutely no humour, warmth or intrigue in this book. It reads as if the author had been forced to write it as punishment. I mean, it’s a bit surprising that a person would bother putting 150 pages worth of effort into something that they so clearly didn’t give a shit about.

I don’t have much else to say. This book is shite. It’s short though, I read it over the course of a few bus rides, so I’m not too upset. Reading stuff like this makes me want to write more fiction myself. I am 100% sure that I could write a much better book than this. (That might sound like boasting, but if you have read Blood Rite, you’ll know that it really isn’t.)

blood rite back coverAdmittedly, the cover still looks as good as it did before I read the book.

Twisted – Sue Hollister Barr

sue hollister barr twistedTwisted – Sue Hollister Barr
BMI – 1992
Twisted is, perhaps, the worst novel I have ever read. It is boring, disjointed, stupid and pointless. In an interview, the author herself referred to this novel as a “fucking piece of shit” and admitted that it’s padded with “formless, utterly embarrassing mush.”

This is a book about a group of hippies who find themselves travelling across America in a van together. On their voyage, they realise that they were all family members in a past life. The Carnes, the family they belonged to, were particularly dysfunctional, so dysfunctional, in fact, that their issues start to bleed into their next lives.

Here are the problems with this book:

  1. The plot makes no sense. The characters are thrown together in a frustratingly lazy way. I get that the author wanted to capture the care-free, happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the flower-power generation, but the idea of a group of 10 random hippies abandoning everything in their lives at the drop of a hat to form a band and travel cross country is dumb and cringey. As the book goes on, it becomes apparent that they were actually drawn together by some paranormal force, but that makes no sense either. Is it the wickedness of the Carnes or their family ties that brings them back together in their next lives? Either way, the reader is expected to swallow a remarkably narrow version of reincarnation.
  2. There are far too many characters in the book. They’re all dull, dislikable stock characters; there’s the junkie, a token black guy, the crazy one, the witchy one, the gay one… Also, each of the 10+ main characters has at least two alter-egos. The only remotely enjoyable part of the book was when they die.
  3. “Far out! Like, the dialogue is totally excruciating, man.”
  4. The author seems unsure as to what horror is. Some scenes are surprisingly gory, but this is basically a shitty thriller that is confused by the ridiculous paranormal element of the plot. Yes, there is an element of the supernatural here, but it adds absolutely nothing to the suspense of the story. I honestly believe that this book would have been much more tolerable if it was a more straight forward murder-mystery. The author has acknowledged that she was not a horror fan at the time of writing the book and that she only wrote this book for money. She admitted, “When I was teaching writing, I would tell my students that the one genre I couldn’t cover was horror.  I morally objected to it.  I thought it was sick and I’d never read it.” Ugh. How annoying! I am absolutely convinced that I could write a far better horror novel than this.
  5. Twisted is poorly written. Not only is the plot stupid, it’s also poorly executed. The narration goes back and forth in time and flips between the perspectives of the 20+ characters. The stuff in between the murders is horrendously tedious too. Absolute garbage. The author has admitted that the publishing company demanded an extra 50 pages to be added to the book after she had submitted it. I honestly believe that her first submission was probably a lot more enjoyable.
  6. The cover is pretty cool but very misleading. There is no angry green twisty man in the book. Also, the tagline “The Sins of the Father Never Die” is dumb.

I actually feel a bit bad about this review. I don’t have any qualms about attacking the work of non-fiction authors because non-fiction should be able to withstand attacks, but attacking the product of another person’s creativity (that is being presented as such) feels a bit mean, and as far as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve really done so on this blog. Then again, this book was so bad that I feel that I would be doing the world a disservice by not expressing how terrible it is. The fact that the author has also admitted that the book is awful makes me feel a little better. As a matter of fact, she was so unhappy with it that she actually self published a new, apparently much-improved, edition of the book a few years ago. I definitely won’t be checking it out, but it probably is better than the edition I read. The edition that I have comes from BMI books, a scam company that was apparently created so that the publishing house could get out of paying the authors any royalties, so if for some reason you were curious about reading Twisted, I would suggest buying the new edition.

twisted new cover

The new edition also has a much improved cover; the angry green face on the original edition has transformed into a surprised shoelace. Priceless.

 

The Doctor Orient Series, Books 1-4

baron orgazIn March 2016, I was working just around the corner from my house. I came home at lunch one day, and as I was sitting down, waiting for the coffee to brew, I checked facebook. Will Errickson had posted a photo of a book featuring the above image on its cover. Let’s just take stock of the elements in that picture: a skull, some ritual candles, a semi-naked woman and a swastika. Needless to say, I had ordered a copy of the book, the intriguingly titled Baron Orgaz, before I had poured my coffee.

It was only after ordering that I realised that this book was part of a series. Now, as my readers well know, I don’t like starting halfway through, so I spent a few weeks tracking down copies of the preceding books in the series. By the time I had got through the first novels and was finishing Baron Orgaz, I had ordered the rest of the collection.

doctor orient books

I’ve hemmed and hawed about publishing this post for a few months. I was considering finishing the entire series before posting, but I have a lot on my hands at the moment, and it’s going to take me quite a while to get through the remaining four novels. Here, then, are my thoughts and feelings on the first half of the Doctor Owen Orient series.

doctor orient frank lauriaDoctor Orient – Frank Lauria
Bantam Press – 1974 (Originally published 1970)

The first Doctor Orient novel seems to be a little harder to come by than some of the later entries in the series. While quite entertaining, it isn’t, in my opinion, quite as good as the books that follow it. Then again, if you were to imagine the series as one extremely long novel, this would serve as good introduction. You get to meet several of the characters who are going to pop up in later installments.

The most obvious point of comparison here would be the Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley. Both books are about crime fighting occult experts doing battle with a black magician. The Duke De Richleau and Doctor Orient are both aided on their adventures by a motley crew of accomplices, one member of each group being temporarily led down the left hand path. The biggest difference here is that Doctor Orient is far less hesitant to use his own psychic powers than De Richleau.

The antagonist in this novel is a dodgy lad called Sesuj. He tries to use pop music as a form of mind control to bring young people over to Satan. Pretty cool stuff.

raga six frank lauriaRaga Six – Frank Lauria
Bantam Press – 1972

Raga Six impressed me. It kicks off with a pair of weirdoes who seem to be going for fairly similar approach to Susej from the first novel, but this turns out to be a false start. The real adventure kicks off when Doctor Orient starts working for a drug peddler named Cowboy and ends up in exile after a particularly sketchy transaction. He meets a really dodgy lad on a boat to Tangier and has a threesome with this chap’s wife and a model. People start dropping off, and you get the idea that there’s at least one vampire involved.

Given that this is a book filled with sex and the undead, the writing is surprisingly good. The Doctor is a sensitive man at the best of times, and I enjoyed the existential crises that he goes through in this book. I was kept guessing right until the end of the novel too. It took me 5 months to start on Raga Six after finishing the first novel in the series, but it only took me 6 days to move onto Lady Sativa after finishing it. Raga Six might be the best known entry in the series.

lady sativa frank lauriaLady Sativa – Frank Lauria
Ballantine Books – 1979 (Originally published in 1973)

This one is about werewolves. It had all the sex, seances and outdated slang that I’d come to expect from a Doctor Orient novel. It contains one scene in which an irritable Doctor Orient unwittingly invites himself to a threesome. Once he finds out that another male is going to be involved, he violently assaults said male and calls him a “Gaylord”. LOL. I was expecting this one to go in a similar direction to Raga Six, but it doesn’t really. A solid entry.

baron orgaz frank lauriaBaron Orgaz – Frank Lauria
Bantam Press – 1974

Nazis, extreme sadomasochism, black magic and tennis… Really, need I say more?

Well, the only other thing that might be worth mentioning is that this very much is the fourth book in a series. While a person might well be able to enjoy the work entirely on its aforementioned merits, most of the main characters have previously appeared and played important roles in the series, so I would strongly recommend reading the first 3 books before this one.

doctor orient later books
I have these ones too, but I haven’t got around to reading them yet. Not pictured is Demon Pope, the last book in the series.

Overall, the Doctor Orient series is awesome. There are loads of cool little references to actual grimoires and conspiracies scattered throughout these books. The author, Frank Lauria, knew William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, he sings in a rock band, and he’s not a fan of Donald Trump. Also, his books are filled with sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and devil worship. Deadly. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

2019 Edit: I finally got around to reading and reviewing the second half of this awesome series.

Hail to the King!

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a long post about the work of Stephen King. I had read nothing but King for a few weeks prior to writing that, and so I decided to give him a break for a while. He has been showing up in the news recently due to his hilarious behaviour on twitter and for the record breaking new trailer for It, and so I decided to indulge myself with a smattering of his marvelous brand of trashy horror fiction.

it stephen kingIt – 1986

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time. I remember being thoroughly creeped out by the video box of the 1990 movie version when I was a kid but being a little disappointed when I actually got to sit down and watch It. With the new movie coming out in September, I decided that I had better read the book now so that I can act cool and knowledgeable to anyone who mentions it to me in the coming months.

In some ways, It is a brilliant novel. The characters are great, the scary bits are very scary, and the transitions between past and present are really well executed. I also have personal reasons for enjoying the story of a gang of losers getting into rock fights with bullies, building hideouts in the woods, and breaking into abandoned houses. I was a little older than the characters in the book when I went a very similar, although significantly less supernatural, set of adventures myself.

Several scenes in the book involve the kids breaking into an abandoned house only to meet It in different ghoulish forms. When I was 18, my friends and I broke into an abandoned house and went rummaging through the cellar. When we were down there, we saw a strange light glimmering on the wall by the stairs. This was rather frightening as it was well after dark, and that set of stairs was our only escape route. We grabbed what we could from the debris on the ground (a stick, a rope, a rusty grill…) and prepared to do battle with whatever it was that was coming down the stairs.

We waited in silence for several minutes, but nothing moved and the light eventually went away. Afterwards, as we sat on some chairs that we had fashioned from old breezeblocks, we came up with a story to explain the peculiar glare. It had been the ghost of the former resident of the house, an old woman who was none too pleased with our presence in her home. We wrote a song about it that began:

In the hoose (sic), the times we had.
Our antiques (sic) made the Granny mad.
Her toilet, it was brown and crappy;
in the bin, her vaginal nappy.

shitty toilet
Her toilet was indeed both brown and crappy.

Anyways, there are several genuinely creepy scenes and ideas in here, but It is a very long book, and in truth, it’s a little incohesive. By 1986, Stephen King was the most popular novelist in the world. He could have written complete rubbish, had it published and sold a million copies. I’m not saying that this is rubbish, but I reckon it could have done with a bit of editing. Some bits aren’t really unnecessary to the lengthy plot, and some crucial plot elements (It‘s origin, the Turtle, how some adults can see Pennywise) are given scant explanation. This doesn’t detract too much from the book however; when a novel’s opening scene depicts a clown dragging a small child into a sewer to eat him, one aught to adjust their expectations accordingly. Don’t question the plot’s coherence; just turn your brain off and enjoy the trashy horror goodness.

When reviewing an extremely popular work, I try not to repeat information or ideas that will be available from thousands of other blogs and websites, but I will say that the infamous sex scene towards the end of this novel was damn weird.

I tried to rewatch the old movie version right after finishing the novel, but it’s very long and aside from Tim Curry, the acting is awful. I lasted about 20 minutes before watching a best-bits compilation on youtube. I will definitely be going to see the new version when it comes out.

 

cycle of the werewolf stephen kingCycle of the Werewolf – 1983

This story is packaged as an illustrated novel, but in reality, it’s shorter than some of King’s short stories. It’s about a werewolf on the loose in a small town. There’s nothing in here that you wouldn’t expect from the title and cover of the book. It’s not an unpleasant read, but I don’t think anyone would say that this is King at his finest. I read it on my commute to work one day.

 

carrie stephen kingCarrie – 1974

 King’s first novel, Carrie, is also one of his best. I started it one morning last week and had finished it by that afternoon. Obviously, this is a very popular work, one that has spawned 3-4 movie versions, and I was familiar with the plot before reading it, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it immensely.

This is nowhere near as ambitious as a novel like It, but I reckon Carrie is actually the better book. The reader quickly comes to understand Carrie’s plight and to lust for her revenge, but this book also encourages its readers to consider how they treat the Carries in their own lives. It’s a simple formula, but it’s entertaining and effective.

 

I love Stephen King, but I’ll probably leave him alone for another few months. He’ll doubtlessly appear on this blog again. Oh, and sorry for the recent lack of posts; there should be a few new ones popping up fairly soon.

The Divine Rite of King

When I as a kid, my parents would sometimes take me to the videoshop after mass on a Sunday and we’d rent two cassettes: a cartoon for the kids and a movie for my parents. As I got a little older, I found myself drawn to the wall over by the sales counter. This was where the horror films were stacked. I distinctly remember being fascinated by the video boxes of Return of the Living Dead III, Ghoulies, and The Howling II. There was one similarity shared by several of the other boxes; it was a man’s name, Stephen King. I remember the mildly titillating feeling of dread that came from looking at the boxes of Children of the Corn, Tommyknockers, It and Graveyard Shift. The covers made these movies look horribly disturbing. I mean, these looked like the kind of films that were supposed to make you mentally sick if you watched them. But underneath my revulsion there was an intense curiosity. I wanted to see those films badly.

My parents had seen a few of the better movies that had been made from King’s work. I remembering pestering them for every plot detail of the Shining  and Misery.  It was probably soon after that that my mam allowed me to read The Moving Finger, a short story from Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It was a bit like the Goosebumps books that I absolutely adored at the time, but this was for grownups. I thought Stephen King was super cool.

I’m the eldest of my siblings, and my parents were a bit stricter with me than they were with my sisters. When one of my teachers told my parents that students should spend 3 hours studying every day, my mam took that to heart. I was never locked in  room or anything, but I was expected to spend several hours a day on my schoolwork. It wasn’t worth fighting over, so I just stayed in the front room of our house by myself, pretending to study for a few hours every day. I can’t remember/don’t want to admit how I spent all of those hours, but there was a bookshelf in that room, and sometimes reading novels seemed like a better idea than reading textbooks. There were only four books on that shelf that looked remotely appealing, and I got through all of them. ‘What books were they?’, I hear you say. They were Roddy Doyle’s excellent Barrytown Trilogy and Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

bagofbonesBag of Bones (1998)
I read this about 15 years ago and can’t remember much about it. I believe I enjoyed it at the time. Anything beat studying.

theshiningThe Shining (1977)
I read this one a little over 5 years ago, and I absolutely loved it. At one point, I actually had to put the book down to take a breather and calm myself (I believe it was right after Danny went into room 237). I had seen Kubrick’s film several times before reading the book, and I reckon it’s better to do the film/book combo in that order.

nightmaresanddreamscapesNightmares & Dreamscapes (1993)
While my first experience with this short story collection was probably 20 years ago, I only got around to reading it cover to cover in 2014. (Well, I’ve never technically read it cover to cover to be honest; I read it in my old office job from a pdf file saved in my google drive). Some stories were great. My favourites were Popsy, Crouch End (a pastiche of Lovecraft), and Night Flier, the movie version of which is laughably bad. Dedication is weird and gross but definitely worth a read. I enjoyed this book, but I don’t think it was quite as good as King’s earlier short story collections.

nightshiftNight Shift (1978)
In October, I took a seasonal job in a powder factory. The work required a lot of standing still, and I was allowed to do it with headphones in. I decided to download some audiobooks to get me through the long dusty days, but I was fairly disappointed in the selection offered by illegal fire-sharing sites. Also, choosing the right audiobook to listen to at work is tricky; the book needs to be interesting enough to keep your mind occupied, but it also has to be light enough that you don’t have to take notes to keep up with the plot. My problems were all solved when I found a big torrent of Stephen King’s audiobooks. His writing is very straightforward, and it takes barely any effort to soak it in. Also, his short stories are about vampires, aliens, mutant rats, and men that turn into slime. If that doesn’t sound enticing to you, get the fuck off my blog and go listen to your Coldplay cds, you stupid fucking barrel of shit.
This is the first collection of short fiction that King published, and some of the stories are  great. Children of the Corn is maybe my favourite. The written text is so much better than the utterly shit movie version that came out in 1984. Graveyard Shift and The Mangler were both great too, but I haven’t watched their movie adaptations. One for the road and Jerusalem’s Lot both expand on the material from Salem’s Lot (reviewed below), and Night Surf is a brief glance at the idea that would become The Stand (also reviewed below). Not everything in here is brilliant, but I really like the fact that King is willing to take any silly idea that comes into his head and turn it into a story. The man has a brilliant imagination.

skeletoncrewSkeleton Crew (1985)
I think I stole a copy of this book from my Granddad’s house when I was 21. I remember taking it to France with me and reading most of The Mist on a plane. Frank Darabont’s version of the Mist is one of my favourite movies and one of the few times that I think a film improved on the book. I read another few stories after that, but lost the book soon thereafter. I started going through the remaining tales as soon as I finished Night Shift last month, and this one picks up right where that one left off.
Survivor Type is fantastic. I laughed heartily as I listened to it. I guessed what was going to happen only a little bit into the story, but I didn’t think King would have the guts to write a story like that. I was wrong. Stephen King definitely has the guts to write a story like that. This collection was thoroughly enjoyable.

4pastFour Past Midnight (1990)
I had found that Stephen King’s fiction was the perfect way to pass the time in work, but I had run out of short story collections. I read that Four Past Midnight was a collection of novellas, but I had never actually seen a physical copy of the book before I started listening to it.  It turns out that some of these “novellas” are longer than some of King’s most celebrated novels. Why were they released in a collection rather than individually? I reckon it was something to do with the fact they’re not exactly his most brilliant work.

The Langoliers
This is a weird one. It’s about a plane that flies into another dimension. The audiobook version is narrated by Willem Dafoe, and I really enjoyed it, but in retrospect, it doesn’t make much sense at all.
Secret Window, Secret Garden
This, in my opinion, was the worst story in this collection. The twist ending is apparent from the very beginning.
The Library Policeman
This was my favourite. It’s weird as fuck.
“Come with me, Ssson. I’m the Library Polissse Man”
The Sun Dog
A boy’s camera offers a glimpse into another reality. It’s an interesting concept I guess, entertaining enough.

I enjoyed Four Past Midnight, but I really doubt anyone would ever have heard of it if it wasn’t written by Mr. King. It would not be a good starting point for anyone interested in sampling his works.

salemslotSalem’s Lot (1975)
About 8 years ago, I stayed up late two nights in a row to watch the 1979 movie version of Salem’s Lot. I was unimpressed. I decided to give the book a chance right after finishing Four Past Midnight. I’m really glad that I did; it’s a very entertaining vampire story set in modern America. I’d strongly recommend that you read it if you haven’t.

thestandThe Stand: Complete and Uncut (1990)
By the time I started on the Stand, I had read/listened to nothing other than Stephen King books for almost two months. I’ll be honest, that was probably a bad idea. At 1153 pages, the uncut version of the Stand is King’s longest book. I never got bored when I was reading it; it is very entertaining, but towards the end, I started to really look forward to reading other books.

King takes his time setting the story up, but it all winds down fairly quickly. There’s three books in the stand. The first ends the world with a super plague, the second details how the two factions of survivors organize themselves, and the final book describes the conflict (or lack thereof) between the two groups. The concept is cool, but the pacing is silly. Given the overall plot of the book, the section on the plague wiping out most of humanity is too long. For the first few hundred pages, the Stand is a fairly straightforward disaster novel that describes a calamity that is in no way unrealistic. Then, after 99.6% of human beings have been wiped out, we find out that the survivors have been left with mild telepathic abilities, and the book quickly turns into a religious parable about the forces of good and evil. It’s already already very, very long, but I felt a bit cheated when the conflict that the previous 1100 pages had been leading to was literally prevented by the hand of God. I mean, come on Stephen; you could have got another 5000+ pages if the two sides had actually gone to war! I wouldn’t be surprised if the Stand had originally been even more epic in its scope and that King only realized that he wouldn’t be able all fit everything into one book after he had already written 700 pages. He has acknowledged that The Lord of the Rings was an inspiration for this work, but King’s fellowship only sets out for their Mordor (Las Vegas) in the third book of the Stand. If he had really used Tolkien’s trilogy as a model, the Stand would probably have lasted 5000-6000 pages.

The religious undertones of the book also irked me a little. I thought Randall Flag was fucking cool, and I definitely would have joined his side. Also, while several of King’s works feature a “Magical Negro”, Mother Abigail serves as a particularly cringeworthy example of this trope. King is definitely not a racist, but some of his writing depicts a slightly dated worldview.

All that being said, the Stand is filled with cool characters and awesome scenes, and I enjoyed reading it. Stephen King has acknowledged that he considers his work to be trash (good trash specifically), and I, for one, am not above reading trash. I fucking love trash, and I loved Trash.

I’ve enjoyed every Stephen King book that I’ve read, but right now, I am looking forward to reading something else. I didn’t know if I was going to review his books on this blog when I started binging on him in October, but the more that I think about it, the more I think that he deserves to be here. If you like horror, you’ve already read this guy. His books are spooky, gross, and seriously entertaining. I’m going to give it a few months, but I’ll definitely be reading more Stephen King in the future. Aside from his fiction, he also seems like a cool guy; he hates Donald Trump and he’s into AC/DC.

kingStephen King, I salute you!