Bullet Through Your Face – Edward Lee

Bullet Through Your Face – Edward Lee
Deadite Press – 2010


I rarely give up on a book, and when I do, it’s usually a piece of garbage about new age occultism. I normally struggle through fiction even if it’s awful, but I could not bring myself to finish this one.

Bullet Through Your Face is a collection of three “short novels” by Edward Lee. I’ve read and enjoyed books by Edward Lee before, and I was well aware of his reputation, but this was a disappointing pile of crap.

Ever Nat, the first story in here an extremely unpleasant tale of a man being kidnapped and brutally raped over and over (ever nat) by a pair of hillbillys. Both of the other books I’d read by Lee featured a pair of rapist hillbillys, and I can’t say I was particularly shocked by any of the specific acts of horrendous sexual violence. The problem here is that there’s absolutely nothing else to this story. The other stuff I’d read by Lee had plenty of rape, but it also had aliens, killer worms and a cannibal mutant. This story is 100% rape. Call me a snowflake or a prude, but I didn’t enjoy this.

The next story, The Salt Diviner was about a Babylonian fortune teller showing up in modern times and making friends with a gambler. Oh, and the mystic gets his powers from performing acts of sex or violence. This gets ludicrous pretty quickly, but it was weird and fun. If the whole book had been stuff like this, I would have been happy. This one was very short for a “novel”.

The last, and by far the longest, story in this collection is called The Refrigerator full of Sperm. Now anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for any amount of time will know that I have a pretty high threshold for vulgarity and potty humour, but this story was too puerile for me. The Refrigerator full of Sperm was originally published in a collection called Splatterspunk: The Micah Hays Stories, and all of the stories in that collection are about a particularly randy police officer. That in itself was enough to deter me (I hate reading stuff out of sequence.), but the writing here is utterly horrible too. I don’t just mean the events it’s describing either. The story itself, not just the dialogue, is written in a southern drawl. Ugh. No thanks. One of the characters keeps interrupting the narrative with his lurid tales, most of which seemed to involve “peckersnot” and “cornholing”. I enjoy vulgarity very much, but this book taught me that it can get pretty tiresome when it’s dialled up to 11. I got maybe 20 pages into this before giving up. I was actually reading an ebook version, and my kindle gives an estimate of how much time it’s going to take to finish the book. I have a full time job and a family to take care of, so reading is a luxury for me. I could not justify spending two hours of my precious free time reading this trash.

I was pretty disappointed with this collection. It was nowhere near as good as the other stuff I’ve read by Lee. If you haven’t read any of his books, this would be an awful place to start. Deadite Press released this book along with another collection of short stories by Lee called Brain Cheese Buffet in 2010. (Both were titled by Carlton Mellick III.) That one contains shorter stories, so it’s probably the better of the two. I was originally planning on reviewing both books together, but after this crap I reckon I’ll take a break from Lee for a while.

Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart

hellbound heart clive barker

The Hellbound Heart – Clive Barker
Crossroads Press – 2013 (First published 1986)

After years of eyeing the video box in my local videoshop after mass on Sundays, I finally saw Hellraiser on the Halloween night after I turned 19. After that much anticipation, I was inevitably a bit underwhelmed. I rewatched it in June this year, and I enjoyed it far more second time around. I had just finished Clive Barker’s Cabal, and I guess I was in a Barkery kinda mood. A few weeks later, over the course of on afternoon, I listened to an audiobook version The Hellbound Heart, the novella that Hellraiser is based on. (Crossroads Press produced two audiobook versions of The Hellbound Heart. One is narrated by Barker himself, but that one is abridged, so I went with the other one.)

In case you don’t know, this is the story of a man who summons a crew of S&M loving demons to his house. (They’re into the bad kind of S&M… the really bad kind.) Things don’t work out very well for this chap and his family. This is a horror classic, and I liked the book quite a lot. I read it so soon after seeing the movie that I was able to pick out their differences.

The main change is that Kirsty is Rory’s friend in the book whereas she is his daughter in the movie. I think the story works better when she’s his daughter. It’s harder to imagine the characters’ motivations when these two are just friends.

In the book, the Cenobytes are less threatening or maybe just a little more distracted than in the movie. When they first appear, they try to make sure Frank knows what he’s getting himself into before they work their magic on him. This is a bit confusing as when Kirsty summons them later on, they tell her that they can’t leave without taking the person who summoned them. Why does Frank get a chance to back out but Kirsty doesn’t?

In the book, the female cenobyte seems to be more of a group leader than Pinhead. She’s the engineer in the book, but that title goes to the weird wall monster in the film. Oh, and there’s no pet store or tramp in the book. Aside from these few differences, the book and movie are pretty much the same. If, like me, you enjoyed the movie, give the book a go. It’s fun to do both.

This is the third of Barker’s works to appear on this site in 2020. The Hellbound Heart (1986) came out right after the Books of Blood (1984 – 1985), and aside from it being slightly longer, it wouldn’t feel out of place with the tales in those collections. (I saw recently that there’s a Books of Blood TV series coming out in October.) I definitely liked The Hellbound Heart better than Cabal (1988) as it’s more horror than fantasy. I reckon I’ll read Barker’s The Damnation Game (1985) next.

Gods of the Dark Web – Lucas Mangum

gods of the dark web lucas mangumGods of the Dark Web – Lucas Mangum
Deadite Press – 2018

For as long as I can remember, there has been horror stories about the dark web. It’s the perfect starting point for creepypastas, and I reckon that youtube clips listing its 10 creepiest videos and the likes are where most people first hear of it. The majority of internet users, including me, don’t really understand what the dark web is or how it works, but that’s not super important here. You won’t need a degree in computer programming to understand this book. Lucas Mangum’s Gods of the Dark Web is a novel about the dangers of messing with the deepest, darkest parts of the internet.

Two teenagers start mucking about on the dark web and then very bad things happen to them. While this premise could work as a realistic thriller, the trouble in this novel seems to be caused by the union of modern technology with some eldritch ancient evil. This supernatural stuff is never fully explained, but this was a strength of the book rather than a weakness. It’s one of those ‘scarier when you don’t understand’ situations.

There are some super violent scenes in here, and while this type of novel would be a bit underwhelming if there wasn’t some brutality, there is one scene in which a baby is murdered that was tough to bear. I read this book in the same room as my 3 week old daughter, and this perhaps made it more unpleasant than it would seem to other readers, but I reckon this scene will leave most people squirming. The genre and subject matter of the book call for taboos to be broken, but, as I mentioned in my review of the Splatterpunks Anthologies, I feel like killing babies is low hanging fruit. It’s close to the bottom of the barrel of shock tactics. Then again, in the context of the story, it doesn’t seem overly ridiculous. The antagonists of this novel need to be the lowest of the low for the story to work. I won’t say that this scene or any other scene in this novel is “too much”, but I would recommend that you not read this book if you don’t feel comfortable reading about horrendous, sadistic brutality.

Gods of the Dark Web is a short novel, and I don’t want to ruin the story, so I’ll say no more about the plot. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It’s dark, gritty and surprisingly enjoyable. Check it out if you like dark, nasty horror.

This book is only a couple of years old, and Lucas Mangum is still an active writer. He has a patreon page where he has recently published a bunch of Gods of the Darkweb extension stories featuring characters from the novel. There’s something very apt about continuing this saga in this manner. You feel like your computer might turn against you while you’re reading. Mangum is not demanding payment for what he posts on his patreon page, and I salute him for his DIY approach. I suggest you give his writing a go.

Slither – Edward Lee

edward lee slitherSlither – Edward Lee
Leisure Books – 2006

I recently finished John Halkin’s Slither, and it instilled me with a ravenous hunger for books called Slither about killer worms. One simply wasn’t enough. Luckily for me, I’ve had another Slither waiting on my shelf for the past few years. I remember buying this and thinking it looked pretty gross. I knew of Lee’s reputation, and the blurb on the back sounds sickening.

Yep. This was a nasty one. Since the coronavirus lockdown started a little over a month ago, this is the 8th novel I’ve read about mutant infestations. This wasn’t a conscious decision, but I don’t think it was a coincidence either. I’m sure a psychoanalyst would be able to explain my current fascination with genetically modified insects and why reading about them commiting acts of repulsive violence seems preferable to monitoring the rising death rate of the pandemic. While I’ve enjoyed these books, I think I’m going to give this kind of stuff a break for a while. Lee’s book seems to be a good one to end with. This was by far the most disgusting out of all of them, and it was also a lot of fun to read.

The only other book I’ve read by Lee is The Bighead, an infamously disgusting work of splattergore. That book has such a reputation that I expected Slither to be less gross. Surely Edward Lee isn’t that gross all the time? Well, here he is. In John Halkin’s Slither books, a creepy crawly will occasionally chew through an eyeball. In Lee’s Slither, masses of worms are constantly spilling into and out of every human orifice. Oh, and Lee’s worms don’t just eat humans. These worms also mutate humans, lay their eggs in humans, and secrete a chemical that turns humans’ insides to liquid.

This book was fucking gross.

I did really enjoy it though. The characters are fun, and there’s a great plot twist. I had a lot of fun reading this. It’s definitely not for the squeamish though. Seriously. Blech!

 

Clive Barker’s Books of Blood

clive barker books of bloodThe 6 volumes of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were published between 1984 and 1985, and they are some of the most infamous and deadly collections of short horror fiction out there. I had been meaning to read them for a long time, and after reading two of the tales in the Splatterpunks anthologies last autumn, I decided to check out the rest. Each volume contains 4-6 stories, and they’re mostly very enjoyable.

Barker’s horror is dark and violent. There’s quite a few ‘Oh God, that’s horrible!’ moments throughout. I feel like I would have read more as a teenager if I had known that books like these existed. (That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy them as an adult.) The writing here is imaginative, exciting and often quite brutal.

I don’t really have a huge amount else to say about these books other than that they’re pretty awesome. In retrospect, waiting until I had read all six volumes before writing a review might have been a mistake. The quantity and variety of stories is so great that I don’t want to get into specifics. There’s countless other reviews online if you want more details, but I suggest you ignore those and just read Barker’s stories instead. If you like horror, you’ll very probably enjoy these books. I’ll certainly be reading more Barker in the future.

I hope you’re all staying inside and being safe during this stressful time.

 

A History of Chainsaw Terror (Come the Night) by Nick Blake (Shaun Hutson)

I have spent the last few months obsessing over the infamous Chainsaw Terror, but finding a copy seemed impossible. A few weeks ago, I read a review that made doing so significantly easier. There’s quite a few reviews of this novel online already, but I am far more interested in the story behind this book than the story in it. In this post, I want to present the most comprehensive account of the publishing of Chainsaw Terror/Come the Night to date.

chainsaw terror come the night nick blake hutson

In 1984, Shaun Hutson agreed to write a novelisation of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Star, his publishing company failed to get the novelisation rights for the movie, but they encouraged Shaun to write a chainsaw novel anyways. Who doesn’t love a bit of chainsaw violence?

Shaun spent a few weeks (either 15 or 20 days) writing a manuscript titled Chainsaw Terror. A week after sending it in to his publisher, he got a call telling him that parts of it had to be cut out. The extent of these cuts varies depending on Shaun Hutson’s mood. He has claimed it was 20 pages, 25 pages and 30 pages during different interviews.

Apparently Bookwise, the biggest book retailer in England, had banned the book from their stores because of the word ‘chainsaw’ in the title. (By Hutson’s own account, other retailers, including W.H. Smith did not have a problem with the book’s title, but Hutson later claimed that the novel was “banned outright.”) The cut manuscript was retitled and all future copies were published as Come the Night.

Ok, so the small number of copies of the first printing of book that were originally sent to and sold by non-Bookwise vendors were titled Chainsaw Terror, and these are the ones that we see going for 300+ dollars on ebay today. The reason that copies of Chainsaw Terror go for so much money is that the people buying them believe that they include the 20-30 pages that were cut from the original manuscript.

But Chainsaw Terror and Come the Night are the same book. Yes, they are the exact same. Come the Night is not shorter, and it’s not less graphic. It’s literally the exact same. (Somebody made this claim on a forum in 2017, but Olly C’s review confirmed it with certainty.) All of those people who review their copy of Chainsaw Terror online and gloat smugly about how weak Come the Night must be compared to the sheer brutality of Chainsaw Terror are fools.

So who is responsible for all of the confusion over the different editions of this book? I’m pretty sure it’s Shaun Hutson. I’ve already pointed to a few instances where he has contradicted himself on elements of  the story, but most confusing of all is the following quote which is currently found on Hutson’s own website:

“…CHAINSAW TERROR and COME THE NIGHT are both the same book. CHAINSAW TERROR was originally published in the US but was banned over here by W.H. Smith because it had ‘chainsaw’ in the title. It was then re-released (heavily cut) as ‘Come The Night’. Actually, make that very heavily cut…”

Ok, so the first sentence and the last sentence of that quote directly contradict each other. Which part are we supposed to believe Shaun? Not only that, but in this quote, Hutson is claiming that it was W.H. Smith that banned the book while he has elsewhere stated that “W.H. Smith who were more conservative in their views [than Bookwise] didn’t have a problem with CHAINSAW TERROR even though they’d later go on to ban my own novel DEADHEAD in 1994.”

According to Hutson, the cuts were demanded just days after he submitted the original manuscript, but while Chainsaw Terror came out in March 1984, Come the Night was only published in December 1985, almost two years later. If Hutson’s claim that “It [Chainsaw Terror] was then re-released (heavily cut) as ‘Come The Night'” was true, this would mean that there are three different versions of the story: the original manuscript, the cut version (Chainsaw Terror) and the cut-cut version (Come the Night). But if Come the Night is a “very heavily cut” re-release of Chainsaw Terror, how is it that every known copy of both books is 173 pages long? Hutson’s claims are full of holes.

I don’t know how deliberate it was, but I can’t help but think that the author has consciously obfuscated the publication details of Chainsaw Terror to add to its infamy. In pointing this out, I want to clarify that I have nothing but respect for Hutson if this is truly the case. Nothing gets my juices flowing better than the mystique of a banned and unattainable horror novel. I’d do the same thing if I was in that position.

I pieced together the above account from different interviews and reviews, and while I’m sure it’s not completely accurate, I think it’s at least the most complete version of the story of the publication of Chainsaw Terror online. (Hutson’s contradictory accounts make it very difficult to suss out who was actually responsible for the title change and where the copies of Chainsaw Terror in circulation were actually sold – was it W.H. Smiths or the United States?) If anyone has any further information on either of these books, I’d be happy to know about it. Shaun Hutson, baby, give me a call and let’s talk.

hutson come the night abduction visitation
Just to clarify another point; while paperback versions of Chainsaw Terror and Come the Night are both fairly scarce at this stage, the entire text of Come the Night (and hence Chainsaw Terror) was rereleased as part of a collection of three novels by Hutson that is still widely available. I bought a copy for less than two dollars a few weeks ago. There was also a French edition called La Tronconneuse de l’Horreur put out in 1985. I actually bought a copy of this before I knew that Come the Night was the same as the published version of Chainsaw Terror. I had planned to learn French rather than paying 300 quid for a copy of the English version, but I don’t have to any more. I don’t regret my purchase though, as I think the cover of this version is the single greatest cover art in the history of horror fiction.

La Tronçonneuse de l'Horreur - nick blakeI can verify that the text is the same as the English version. It’s cut too. Still though, look at that cover!

Ok, as for the actual plot of Chainsaw Terror… It’s pretty much what you’d expect: an incel cuts up a bunch of prostitutes with a chainsaw. It shames me to say this, but I thought it was quite enjoyable. Everything is pushed a few steps further than is sensible. There’s some nice touches – whenever somebody is cut up, they always seem to shit or piss themselves. Also, the chainsaw maniac has the weird (yet admittedly sensible) habit of taking off all of his clothes before he dismembers his victims.

There is one part of the book where the killer is about to ram a drill into a prostitute’s eyeball where the text cuts off with an ellipsis. When the next paragraph starts, she is dead. I assume this is the scene of one of the infamous cuts. There’s also a tense scene where the killer is left alone with two small children. Nothing happens, but in a later interview, Hutson mentioned that “Killing kids in print is always a tricky area” directly after mentioning the ban on Chainsaw Terror, leading me to believe that the that the killer may have returned to those kids in the original manuscript. Hutson has also mentioned the omission of a scene involving chainsaw rape, but the published versions do actually contain a scene that I thought suggested as much. In truth, none of these omitted scenes would have made a huge difference to the final product. As it stands, the published manuscript is plenty violent and gross. (There are rumours of a pdf copy of the uncut manuscript of Chainsaw Terror that was being sent around the internet years ago, but I doubt we’ll ever see it again.)

In conclusion then, finding a copy of Chainsaw Terror is actually pretty easy despite all the nonsense that has been written about it online. The omnibus containing two other Hutson novels is the way to go my friends – you don’t need to spend 300 dollars. As of today, the 2nd of February 2020, there are more than 50 copies available online for less than 20 dollars, many costing less than half that. The book is enjoyable in a very direct, horrible way too, and I recommend you check it out if you’re at all into violent, mindless horror novels.

severed head decapitated by chainsaw

Oh, and if elusive and weird paperback horror is your thing, make sure you check back here soon. I’ll be posting a review of The Voice of the Clown, a real rarity, by the end of the month.

 

Kill for Satan – Bryan Smith

42304587._SY475_.jpg

Kill for Satan – Bryan Smith

Grindhouse Press – 2018

I saw the cover of this book roughly a year ago and knew I’d have to read it. It’s about a bunch of people killing a bunch of other people. Oh, and they’re doing so for Satan.

Kill for Satan only came out in 2018, and it features a lot of pop culture references that made me realise how little modern horror I actually read. I was a bit bothered by the repeated allusions to one of the character’s Cradle of Filth tshirt (Jesus Christ, that band are shit.), but I liked the part when one of the characters is researching Satanism and discovers “modern so-called “Satanic” groups that don’t actually believe in the existence of any demonic evil entity ” who “use Satan as a provocative and subversive means of delivering progressive messages. They are social activists, not true devotees of the dark path.” Haha, I wonder who he’s reading about.

Really though, aside from all of the killing for Satan, there’s not much else going on in this book. It reminded me of a more straightforward version of William Johnstone’s The Nursery. In a way that’s a good thing; Johnstone’s book was a mess, but I found the plot of Kill for Satan to be a bit underwhelming.

Bryan Smith seems to specialise in Splatterpunk, and this book, like some of the others within that genre, was just a bit too straightforward for me to really enjoy. Kill for Satan felt a bit more like reading the screenplay for an extended death metal music video than it did a novel. Smith’s writing is decent – I was never bored, but personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more plot/character development – maybe a little less killing and a little more Satan.

There is one particularly memorable scene in which a mother says to her child, “I’m sorry, sweetie. I do love you. But I love Satan more.” Yikes. You can probably guess what happens next. If this sounds good to you, if you’re looking for a straight up bloodbath of mindless, brutal violence, this book will not disappoint.

 

The Splatterpunks Anthologies: Extreme Horror and Over the Edge

splatterpunks extreme horror over the edge sammon.jpg
Splatterpunks: Extreme Horror – Paul M. Sammon (Ed.)
Xanadu – 1990

The first Splatterpunks anthology was published in 1990. It’s a collection of extremely violent stories, most of which had previously been published elsewhere. Some of the stories are quite enjoyable and some are fairly shit. The most remarkable feature of this collection is the editor’s attempt to delineate Splatterpunk as a separate entity from regular horror fiction.

Every review I have read of this collection has commented on the fact that most of the authors included herein reject the splatterpunk label. Sammon himself acknowledges this fact several times throughout his introductory notes. Let’s face it. Splatterpunk was never a revolutionary literary movement; it was a label created by David Schow to describe a small group of his writer friends who were writing gory stories. The authors in this anthology repeatedly refuse the splatterpunk label because it’s too limiting, and they feel that it would only apply to a small portion of their output. If we’re calling writers Splatterpunks because they’ve written a couple of gross-out stories, surely Stephen King fits the bill too. His story Survivor Type is easily as extreme as most of the stuff in this anthology. (My point is not that King should be included here; it’s that the editor’s posturing is ridiculous. In the next anthology he goes on to claim that Bret Easton Ellis, a writer who is parodied in this collection, is actually a Splatterpunk too.)

The book includes a lengthy epilogue that I was unable to finish. Paul Sammon’s attempts to make Splatterpunk seem like a really important cultural phenomenon were genuinely embarrassing to read. I was going to include a quote from the introduction here, but after rereading the first few lines of it, I found myself cringing too hard to continue. He literally compares his authors to Burroughs, De Sade and Baudelaire in the second sentence of this book. Some stories in here were decent, but I had forgotten most of them only two weeks after finishing the collection.

 
Splatterpunks: Over the Edge – Paul M. Sammon (Ed.)
Tor – 1995

The second Splatterpunks collection came out 5 years later, and this book is far, far worse than its predecessor. Actually, I really liked some of the stories in here, but there’s way more in this one, and some of them are absolute shit.

The really dislikeable part of this one wasn’t the awful stories or even Paul Sammon’s embarrassing introductions; it was the non-fiction pieces. Aside from Sammon’s bullshit, the only non-fiction piece in the first collection was an essay on ultra violent films. I watched most of the movies it mentions when I was a teenager, so I actually quite enjoyed reading this piece. Although it was about movies, it didn’t feel hugely out of place in a collection of ultra-violent stories. There’s an article in Spatterpunks II by Martin Amis on the movies of Brian De Palma. Martin Amis is not a horror author, and while De Palma has done a few horror films, those aren’t the movies being discussed in the essay. Sure, some of De Palma’s movies are violent, but they don’t compare to the other stuff in these collections. There is absolutely no reason for this essay to be in this collection other than having a famous author’s name on its cover. Fuck off Martin Amis.

There’s also an interview in here with Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan. My favourite pastime is reading about Satanic occult orders, but I skipped this section after about 2 pages. It was excruciating. Not only does LaVey come across as an embarrassing dildo, but the interview is performed by Jim Goad. Jim Goad, for those of you who don’t know, is just about the edgiest edge-lord in town. He beats women and believes that white people are oppressed. He also published a magazine in the 90s that included pages of rape jokes. When it was first published in this same magazine, the LaVey interview was followed with an interview with David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Together, LaVey and Goad are unbearable. Again, this piece has absolutely nothing to do with horror, and can only have been included because Sammon saw it as edgy and in-your-face. (There’s also a particulary embarrassing “rant” from Goad’s wife. I actually felt sorry her after reading it. Total loser.)

And I think this edginess is the big problem with these collections. Times have changed in the last 30 years, and being edgy isn’t cool any more. Pushing the boundaries of taste isn’t a difficult task, and today’s teenagers throw about the phrase ‘edgelord’ with derision. These kids have grown up with the internet. By the time was I was finished school, I had seen video footage of executions, extreme S&M and tonnes of stuff that’s worse than the stories in this book. (Can you guys remember rotten.com?)  I don’t think it’s possible to make literary gore as shocking as what kids see on their phones every day. Brutal violence is fine and dandy when it’s used for effect, but it’s rarely interesting when it’s presented as the main attraction.

A lot of this crap is boring and predictable. Think about it:

How can you make a murder more offensive? Hmmmm, make the victim more innocent and vulnerable. Who are the most innocent and vulnerable members of society? Well, women are certainly more vulnerable than men, and there’s plenty of women dying in these books, but children are more vulnerable than women! Oh wait, one of these stories is about a child dying in a car accident. Yeah, but babies are more innocent than children. Sammon’s got you covered fam; one of these stories features a baby being sexually abused. Ok, hang on! Fetuses! Fetuses are even more vulnerable than babies! They’re the most innocent and vulnerable of all! But no author would ever have the balls to write about somebody killing fetuses, would they? Actually, yeah. quite a few of these stories involve people killing fetuses. A lot of Splatterpunk seems to involve this kind of punching down, and as I am no longer 13 years old, I have no interest in this kind of crap. I far prefer gore, brutality and violence when it’s directed at somebody who deserves it.

Also, just to amp up the cringe factor, Paul Sammon filled the last few pages of this book with a list of bands that he likes. I did the same thing with my homework journal when I was 15.

All this being said, there were some great stories in the second collection. Gorman Bechard’s Pig was deadly, and I quite liked the weird ones by Petoud and Koja. There are a few duds in here for sure, but just as it was with the first collection, this book would be far more enjoyable if it was just a collection of stories with no bullshit in between. Give me gore and brutality, but don’t try to make it seem clever when it isn’t.

Flesh – Richard Laymon

flesh - richard laymon.jpgFlesh – Richard Laymon
Tor Books – 1988

A few months ago, I found a bunch of Richard Laymon books in my favourite second hand book store. I had heard of him, but I wasn’t sure which of his books were worth checking out. I bought this one because it had a cool cover. After reading Flesh, I deeply regret not buying all of the Laymon books that were there.

A gross slug thing burrows into people’s flesh, attaches itself to the back of their skull and then takes control of their body. The plot of this novel is remarkably similar to Brain Damage (one of my favourite movies, also released in 1988) and a later episode of the X-Files. The slug like beasty of this novel is special though, as this one only takes control of humans so that it can satiate its need for human flesh. It turns its victims into cannibals.

Let me put that another way. The monster in this book eats through people’s flesh so that it can use their bodies to eat through other people’s flesh.

The central premise of this book doesn’t make sense, but I didn’t even realise that until I started writing this review. It’s such a cool idea for a book. There were, however, a few other issues that were more difficult to swallow. Most of the characters in Flesh are either exceptionally stupid or remarkably intelligent. The victims make absolutely terrible, terrible choices, but the police officers on the case are able to deduce the exact nature of their bizarre adversary after examining one of its victims. They immediately figure out that they’re dealing with a with a psycho-parasitic worm with a lust for human flesh. Finally, the women in this book have such sensitive nipples that I can’t imagine how they go about their daily lives. Every time a woman does anything in this book, her nipples’ reaction is mentioned, whether she be taking a shower, greeting a friend, or enjoying a pleasant summer breeze.

Despite these issues, I found this book to be immensely entertaining. It is absolutely full of gore, a real bloodbath. The writing is decent too. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not Faulkner, but it’s not bad. Laymon tells a good story. Flesh is 400 pages long, but I read it in only a few days. I advise you all to hunt down a copy too.

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