The First Wave of Valancourt’s Paperbacks from Hell

Last year, Valancourt books teamed up with Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson to reissue some of the better books featured in Paperbacks From Hell. After reading Paperbacks from Hell, I made a list of the books featured therein that I thought sounded cool and tried to hunt them down. Some of the books I read were amazing, but some were utter shit. In truth, I wasn’t super excited when the Valancourt reissues series was announced. My experience with “Paperbacks from Hell” had been pretty varied, and none of the books in Valancourt’s series had the Devil or a guitar on the cover. However, soon after the series was announced, I bought a cheap copy of The Tribe in a used bookstore. I read it soon thereafter and was so impressed that I knew I’d have to read the rest of these books.

 

 

the reaping bernard taylorThe Reaping – Bernard Taylor
Originally published 1980

This was a very entertaining novel. The writing is excellent, and I found it difficult to put down once I got a few chapters in. The sense of mystery that Taylor develops is awesome, and my only complaint about the book is that it’s too short. I reckon you’re better off not knowing anything about this one, so I won’t give any plot details. I will recommend that you pick it up if you get the chance. Valancourt have put out a few more books by Taylor, and I am looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

 

whendarknesslovesus valancourt

When Darkness Loves Us – Elizabeth Engstrom
Originally published 1985

Woah, I wasn’t expecting this. Don’t let the doll on the cover of this fool you. This is kick in the bollocks horror.

This is actually a collection of two novellas. The first one, When Darkness Loves Us, is about a woman who gets trapped in a cave. A few months ago, I read an utterly awful novel about a bunch of kids getting stuck in a cave, and this story puts that one to shame. This is twisted horror. Engstrom doesn’t rely on a spooky monster to frighten her reader; she uses the frailty and shortcomings of humanity.

The next story, Beauty is…, was a little harder to get into for me. The protagonist is a victim of brain damage, and I didn’t want to read about anything bad happening to her. Again, I don’t want to give away details here, but I will say that this turned out far darker than I had expected.

This was a good collection. Engstrom’s horror is unsettling, but I enjoyed the ride.

 

the nest douglas

The Nest – Gregory A. Douglas
Originally published 1980

The Nest was incredible. Excluding Cujo, the only ‘animal attacks’ horror novel I had read before this was the underwhelming yet ludicrous Fleshbait. My complaint with that novel was that it never went far enough, always shying away from a potentially gory good bit. I can only say the opposite of The Nest. There were a few scenes here where things probably went too far, gloriously grisly scenes of visceral carnage. This book had me squirming every time I sat down with it. Cockroaches are fucking gross at the best of times, and they are particularly frightening after developing a taste for human meat. I consumed this one in audiobook format, and each night I would sit up alone listening to it with all the lights off. This was an excellent way of making myself feel uncomfortable. I thoroughly recommend this book.

 

the spirit thomas page

The Spirit – Thomas Page
Originally Published 1977

I got around to The Spirit last, and this was a bit unfortunate. Of the series, this is the one I enjoyed least. It’s about a killer sasquatch, and unfortunately I had only finished reading Jack Kewaunee’s Psychic Sasquatch book a few days before picking this up. I was well and truly sick of Sasquatches before I even started this one. It’s nowhere near the worst horror novel I’ve ever read, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the others in this series.

 

the tribe bari wood valancourt

The Tribe – Bari Wood
Originally published 1981

I actually reviewed The Tribe for a different post last year. It was great. I loved it.

 

This post covers only the first wave of this series, but by now Valancourt have put out a second wave and a bonus title. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this awesome collection. You may have noticed that I’ve been reviewing a lot of books from Valancourt recently. This publisher specializes in underappreciated horror novels, and they have been doing some pretty spectacular promotional offers recently. If you’re reading this blog, you’ll probably be impressed with their catalogue. Go buy some books from them and support this awesome publisher.

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.

 

Paperbacks from Hell – Grady Hendrix

paperbacks from hellPaperbacks from Hell – Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books – 2017

Most of the horror novels that I have read have been rather old. I have nothing against modern horror, but I’ve felt that I should read the great works of the genre before indugling myself with the newer ones. At this stage, I’ve read quite a lot of the classics, and I’ve recently been allowing myself to dabble with some more modern stuff.

I haven’t put much effort into how I choose the modern horror fiction that I’m going to read. I did a bunch of Stephen King stuff last year because he’s the obvious starting point, but apart from that most of the modern horror novels on my book shelf are books that I got dirt cheap at library booksales or saw on the toomuchhorrorfiction facebook page and bought because they had cool covers.

I’m not the only person taking recommendations from toomuchhorrorfiction. Grady Hendrix used it to direct his research for Paperbacks from Hell, winner of the 2018 Stoker Award for non-fiction. Will Errickson, the guy who runs toomuchhorrorfiction, even wrote the book’s afterword. Paperbacks from Hell explores the history, scope and magnificence of the pulp horror novels that were churned out in the ’70s and ’80s.

horror paperbacksThe only thing that I don’t really like about this book is the fact that it has caused some of the featured texts to skyrocket in price. There was one text that sounded particularly appealing to me, but the only copy I was able to find online was $15,000. (I also found a pdf of that text online, for free. I’m not sure which I’ll go with yet.)

I read Paperbacks from Hell in one afternoon and enjoyed every page. The layout, tone, and information are all fantastic. The book has 8 chapters, each one looking at a different theme of trashy horror. Lots of the books you’d expect to see are in here, but much of the focus of this book is on the forgotten gems of the genre. Well, “gems” might not be the perfect word here as some of these books sound absolutely terrible, but that doesn’t make me want to read them any less. It doesn’t matter how awful a book is; if it features a woman giving birth to the Antichrist through her anus, I’ll want to read it! Obviously, I made a list of the books mentioned in here that I’ll have to read, but I’m not sure if that was really necessary. This is not a definitive list of the best horror fiction from the ’70s and ’80s; it’s more a sample of the stunning range of material that was published during those decades.

michelle remembersMy old friend shows up!

I don’t normally gush like this, but this book was really cool, and I picked it up at just the right time. A few weeks ago, I read Ghoul by Michael Slade and absolutely loved it. I’m a busy man, and the experience of reading that book was so much more enjoyable than some of the crap that I’ve reviewed on here recently that I’ve decided, at least for a while, to only bother with books that I’ll enjoy reading. Sounds mad doesn’t it? Well, Ghoul, the book that changed my perspective, is literally the type of book that Grady Hendrix is writing about – it’s featured on page 213. (I thought this was a bit odd; page 213 of this book only features books about serial killers. 213 was also the number of Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment. Coincidence? I doubt it.) Anyways, thanks to Paperbacks from Hell, I now know that there’s lots more similar stuff out there. In general, if a book makes me excited about reading more books, I can probably say that I enjoyed reading it. Reading Paperbacks from Hell has got me absolutely pumped to dive into the slimy, toxic swamp of trashy horror fiction from the ’70s and ’80s. I just hope Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson don’t get annoyed when I review lots of the books they’ve already written about.

devil finds work satans disciplesI thought this was cool. The caption under the book covers reads:
“Satan sold, whether it was new covers slapped on old books (The Dowry, 1949; To the Devil a Daughter, 1953) or an occult cover applied to a mystery about antique collectors (The Devil Finds Work, 1968).”
The cover for The Devil Finds Work was actually taken from Robert Goldston’s 1962 book, Satan’s DisciplesI’m considering tracking down a copy of The Devil Finds Work because I love that cover so much, but Mr. Hendrix has made it sound rather shit indeed.