Barry Hammond’s Cold Front – Canada’s Rarest Horror Paperback?

Cold Front -Barry Hammond
Signet -1982

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. You have seen that cover show up on this blog before. Valancourt books used that artwork on their 2019 edition of Thomas Page’s The Spirit. (If you’ve seen the original artwork for that one you’ll understand why.) Two books sharing the same cover is not unheard if in the world of paperback horror, but Cold Front is an anomaly. This book is so rare that there was recently a thread on reddit about whether it still exists or not. There’s lots of rare horror paperbacks, but copies of The Voice of the Clown, Eat Them Alive, Chainsaw Terror and the Halloween novelisation are out there; they’re just really expensive. Cold Front is different. There are 5-6 known copies in existence. The rest of the scant information about this book online suggests that it is a lost classic, a surprisingly well written nightmare that has almost disappeared.

Adding to the allure is the fact that the book is supposed to be extremely Canadian. I have no proof of this, but as far as I know, Cold Front was only ever available in Canada, hence its rarity. Now I don’t know about you, but there’s little in the world that excites me more than a mysterious, rare, horror paperback, smothered in maple syrup. I had to read this one.

As I write this, there is actually a copy of Cold Front for sale on ebay for $3000. I didn’t pay quite that much, but I had to make a bunch of calls, barter with strange Canucks and then travel across the Great White North to procure a copy. The whole process took 4 months, but last week, I finally got my hands on one of the last remaining copies of this bizarre little book.

Cold Front is only 150 pages long. The first two thirds are entertaining but largely predictable. Three low-lifes kill their boss after a night of drinking. They stash his corpse and his cash box into their car and drive away into a storm. When they wake up the next morning, they find themselves broken down in the middle of nowhere and then notice that the body is missing from the trunk of their car. Concerned and cold, they walk until they find a cabin with a smoking chimney. When they enter they find a beautiful, half naked woman alone.

And that is where the predictable part of this story ends. As the tagline on the back cover says, “You might pity the girl, trapped in a snowbound cabin in the Canadian wilderness with three savage fugitives from the law. But you would be wrong.” I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that the last 50 or so pages of this book are mental. This changes from a gritty crime novel to a blood-soaked, supernatural nightmare.

I can confirm that most of the stuff you’ve read about this novel is true. Cold Front is a fast paced, well written, absolutely bonkers, horror novel. It is a great shame that more people haven’t had the chance to read it.

This book is infamously rare, but unlike some rare paperback horror novels, this one is rare (at least in part) because of its reputation as being a good book. I couldn’t help but wonder why it has not been republished. The fact that Valancourt books used its cover for another book proves that Cold Front was on their radar at some point. They confirmed this in a different thread on reddit about the book, where they stated that “The art for The Spirit was not available to use and there were no plans for Cold Front to be reissued. We purchased the rights for the Cold Front art.” How would they know that there were no plans for Cold Front to be reissued if they hadn’t looked into reissuing it at some point? It seems fairly safe to assume that Hammond turned them down.

Why would an author do this? Well, this is pure speculation, but I have a theory. Barry Hammond is still active in the world of Canadian literature. He’s currently the poetry editor for On Spec, “the Canadian magazine of the fantastic”. Canada has changed quite a lot since Cold Front was published in 1982, particularly with how people think about the experiences and representation of the Indigenous and First Peoples of Canada. One of the main characters in this book is an Indigenous Canadian and a violent alcoholic. There are another two Indigenous characters who come across no better, and none of this is contextualized by addressing the horrible shit that Indigenous people in Canada would have lived through at the time when this book was written. This wouldn’t go down well today. In fairness, Hammond has to have been a fairly young man when he wrote this, and in 1982, most Canadians supposedly didn’t know about the utterly abhorrent shit that their government was doing to First Nations peoples. Again, this is pure speculation, but if Hammond is the type of guy he seems to be (and remember, he’s the poetry editor for a literary magazine), I reckon he’s happy enough to let this book remain obscure and mysterious. If this is the case, that’s actually pretty cool (and very Canadian) of him.

There are some heinous racial slurs used at one point, but the characters in this novel are definitely the kind of guys who would use racial slurs. The swearing throughout is generally delightful. I think it’s the second chapter that opens up with the phrase, “Holy Cock!” All this profanity made the book feel a bit like a Trailer Park Boys Halloween special. I mean that in a positive way.

Cold Front is definitely of its era, but if you’re able to look past its faults, it’s very entertaining. It’s only 150 pages, so I got through it in a couple of sittings. If you ever find a copy of this bizarre Canadian masterpiece, read it immediately.

Raped by the Devil – The Worst of the Worst

The Devil must be one of the most frequently occurring characters in the canon of Western literature. Over the last few years, I’ve been seeking out and reading books in which he makes an appearance, but I’ve now gotten to a stage where I’ve read most of the really well known ones and I’m having to move on to slightly less popular texts. As I do so, I’m noticing that the quality tends to be dropping. Reading Dennis Wheatley’s The Satanist after having read Milton’s Paradise Lost, one understands how Lucifer must have felt when he was falling from the heavens; it’s a pretty steep decline.

Finding myself travelling down this highway to literary Hell, I decided to rev up my engines and aim for rock bottom. I have no time for dull diabolism; if I’m reading a book about the devil, I want it to be either really fucking good, or REALLY fucking bad. I decided to seek out the single worst book in which Satan plays a starring role, and guess what!

I’m pretty sure I found it.

raped by the devil - satans libraryRAPED by the DEVIL – Anonymous
Star Distributors (Satan’s Library) – 1997 (First Published 1979)

I honestly can’t imagine a shadier title than “Raped by the Devil”. I mean, sure, you could throw a few adjectives or a prepositional phrase in there to make it sound a bit grosser, but I reckon its simplicity is what makes this title truly special. It’s not called “The Raping Devil” or “The Devil Raped Me”; that would give undue importance to the subject of the novel. The author, who unsurprisingly chose to remain anonymous, used the passive voice to title this work. Look at the phrasing: “Raped by the Devil”. The action itself is given more importance than its subject or object; thus suggesting that this is primarily a book about rape.

On that note, I’ll just take a moment to clarify that I don’t think rape is funny at all and that I don’t want to make light of a horrible topic. I read this book with a mind to explore the shadiest reaches of Satanic literature, not for sexual excitement. Also, my copy of this book is second hand, and I would not have bought it if I thought that any of money was going to go to individuals profiting off the promotion of rape. The publishing company that put this out, Star Distributors, released loads of similar, Satanic themed pornography. I chose to review this one as it seemed a little bit worse than all of the others (Devil’s Incest Daughter came a close second!), and as I’ve already noted, I wanted the worst of the worst.

I’d imagine that most of the people reading this post have no interest in actually reading the book, so I am going to give a complete plot summary. If you are seriously thinking of reading this book, skip the next few paragraphs or I’ll ruin all of the suspense that the author has so carefully weaved into this masterpiece of romantic fiction.

A psychiatrist comes to a small nunnery at the request of a priest. There are four nuns living there: Sister Mercy, Sister Grace, Sister Charity and the Mother Superior. Sister Mercy had a dream in which she was raped by Devil. The psychologist demands that she recount the experience in vivid detail. After the virginal nun does so, the psychiatrist declares that it was just a manifestation of her sexual frustration and decides to leave.

nun confessionIt was her first time.

On his way home, the psychiatrist picks up a hitchhiker named Char. After driving about 50 meters down the road, they get out of the car and have sex. Afterwards she turns into the Devil. The psychiatrist presumes it was a hallucination brought on by his earlier conversation with the nun, but he decides to head back to the nunnery just to check things out. Once he gets there, he proceeds to have sex with Sister Mercy, the nun who had dreamt about Satan. Meanwhile, Jesus Christ appears to Sister Grace and has sex with her. This was my favourite part of the book.

jesus nun sexInterestingly enough, Jesus is the only male in this novel who does not insist on ending  his lovemaking with a bit of uppah-de-bummeh.

After hearing Grace orgasming on Jesus’s cock, the psychiatrist runs to her aid and proceeds to have sex with her. While this is happening the Mother Superior is having sex with the priest who works at the nunnery, and Sister Charity, who we soon realize was the horny hitchhiker, has entered a void with the Devil and is repeatedly making him cum. It is during this tryst that Devil informs her of his plan to impregnate the Mother Superior with the antichrist. There’s a pretty funny moment during this bit when the Devil gets really salty with Charity after she says “Oh God” when she’s cumming.

After the psychiatrist anally rapes Sister Grace, Jesus Christ possesses her and orders her rapist to crucify Sister Charity to prevent the birth of the Antichrist. (Sister Charity is somehow physically linked with the Devil, so killing her will kill him and prevent conception.) Unfortunately, the Devil has already started to rape the Mother Superior, and when the novel ends with Sister Charity being nailed to a wall by the anal rapist and his last victim, the reader is unsure as to whether this ritual crucifixion was performed early enough to prevent the conception of the Antichrist.

chicks with dicks speedoAt the end of the book, there’s some pretty good ads for phone sex lines.

As blasphemous and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny this book was, I honestly feel like it could have been much better. It reads as if it were written by somebody who was having a wank. It’s full of misspellings, missing words, faulty punctuation, and other technical flaws that probably occurred as the author reached across his type writer to grab a kleenex to wipe the snotty gip out of his crusty bellybutton. Those mistakes, I’m willing to forgive as they don’t really detract from the story; what annoyed me were the missed opportunities for blasphemy. There’d be parts where the nuns are lying in bed, looking up towards the crucifix on their cell wall, and I’d start anticipating that crucifix being misused in hilarious ways, but no; the sex acts in this book are frustratingly vanilla (a spot of rimming is as tropical as it gets). In fact, in spite of title, all of the sex acts in this book are mutually enjoyable, and even the titular raping is surprisingly consensual; the victim admits that she “wanted the demon’s seed in her ass more than anything.” Confusing, right?

It makes me wonder who the target audience this book and the other books in the Satan’s Library series were. Despite the book’s title, most of its sex is had between humans, and aside from the couple of rapey bits, the book doesn’t really go for any specific kink. I had been hoping it would be aimed at perverts with a Devil or blasphemy fetish or something interesting, but the plot and the actual sex acts in this book don’t really have much to do with each other; you could change all of the characters to aliens and space-colonists living on mars by changing a few words.

Realistically, this book was first published in 1979, at the end of what Grady Hendrix referred to as “the Devil’s Decade”, an era in which the inclusion of the Archfiend on the cover of a paperback would guarantee the publisher some small amount of success. This book is fucking garbage, and I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if the writer was given the title and a deadline by which to finish the book. No care or thought went into this rubbish; it’s just 180 pages of repetitive sex scenes with the Devil and a horrible title thrown in an attempt to draw an audience.

In complete honesty, I’m not really used to reading pornography, and I’m a little annoyed with this book. I knew full well that it was going to be shit when I ordered it, but after reading it, I can’t help but feel that it could have been so much better. I mean, I don’t know the first thing about writing erotic fiction, but I can tell the difference between Satanic porn and porn featuring Satan, and this crap is definitely the latter. In this book, the Devil has the power to change his shape and transport people into different dimensions, yet when he has the chance to do whatever he wants to his lover, he chooses to give her a long, romantic kiss on the lips. I mean, come on! I would have included some twisted form of the osculum infame or had the nun receiving her first unholy communion in the form of a facial from Satan’s goaty udders. Another thing; there wasn’t a single same-sex sex scene in this entire book! Homosexuality is a sin in Christianity, so surely the Devil invented gayness. Why is there no gay or lesbian scenes in here? I understand that gay/lesbian sex doesn’t suit everyone’s tastes, but there isn’t even a threesome! Also, the omission of a full blown Satanic orgy suggests to me that the author of this book knew next to nothing about the lore of Satanism and possession. Finally, my favourite part of the book, the Jesus bit, should have been drawn out more. Think of the potential!

I’ve only been able to find one other review of this book, and in that review this book is being lumped in with three more of the same series. It’s rather short, so I’ll include it here. It’s from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review, October 1979.

raped by the devil reviewFor the trenchcoat crowd. LOL

As far as I know then, mine is the longest review of Raped by the Devil ever written. Coming to terms with the fact that I am publicly giving this book more attention than anyone else is a bit strange. I want to just state for the record that I am not a rape-pervert and that my interest in this book was and is purely literary. I have written nothing in this post that should surprise anyone. Raped by the Devil is a truly terrible piece of work. After reading it, I have little interest in reading any of the other books from the Satan’s Library series. These texts are generally very expensive, but the book I attained is a reprint from 1997 and I got it for quite a bit cheaper than the other copies I have seen online. I wanted the worst of the worst, and I reckon that Raped by the Devil is just about as bad as you can get. I’ve read books that are more morally repugnant than this, but I don’t recall ever having read a book that clearly had as little effort put into it. Taken together, this book’s negative characteristics make it spectacularly awful.

satanic classicsThe penguin classics edition of RAPED by the DEVIL is yet to be published.