Review: ‘Paperbacks from Hell’ by Grady Hendrix

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books (September 19, 2017)
256 pages; $15.27 paperback; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction is a history lesson crossed with the world’s coolest (and unlikeliest) museum exhibit. As the title indicates, author/curator Grady Hendrix is our guide, taking us from the post-Rosemary’s Baby boom of paperback horror all the way through the 1990s bust. In between, there’s a whole lotta crazy to cover, and Hendrix is more than game to take us through every twist, turn and trend.

I’ll be honest, when I first got wind of this book, I expected little more than a portfolio of lurid paperback covers accompanied by a plot synopsis for each book, maybe a spotlight or two on some of the more prolific authors, and perhaps a closer look at some of the publishers who were churning the stuff out. And you know, I would have been fine with that. But Hendrix has given us so much more. An accomplished author in his own right (My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Horrorstör), Hendrix digs deep and writes with passion. You need look no further than his introduction, in which he writes about the book that served as his “gateway drug” into the world of paperback horror. It’s better heard from him, but let me just toss out the term “Gestapochauns” as an appetizer. Yeah, you’re thinking there’s no way that could mean what you think it means, but it does.

Rather than go year-by-year, Hendrix has organized the book by the themes and subgenres that defined the period. So, we move from “Hail, Satan” to “When Animals Attack” to “Real Estate Nightmares” to “Inhumanoids” to….well, you get the idea. Each of these chapters are written with a historian’s observational skill coupled with a fan’s passion and a professional’s touch. Hendrix hits the requisite high points like David Seltzer’s The Omen, James Herbert’s The Rats, and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door (and it’s infamous skeleton cheerleader cover!), but he revels equally in obscure gems like Eat Them Alive by Pierce Nace and Slay Bells by Joe Gibson and Blood Snarl by Ivor Watkins. 

Hendrix recognizes that the covers were often the best thing about these books, so he’s written several “Coroner’s Report” asides spotlighting particularly prolific artists and their contributions.

I often look at my own, growing library and keep a mental list of my “essentials,” the books I absolutely could not do without. Paperbacks from Hell is now on that list. As a reference book, as a celebration, and as an appreciation, it’s one of the best books about the horror genre that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I’ll honestly be stunned if I ever meet a horror fan that disagrees. This gets my highest possible recommendation.

Review: ‘Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors’ edited by Christopher Golden

Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors edited by Christopher Golden
Dark Horse Books (August 29, 2017)
216 pages; $10.19 paperback; $8.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

For this, the fourth Hellboy prose anthology and the first in almost 10 years, editor Christopher Golden decided to recruit only authors who had never published a Hellboy story in prose before. The result is a fresh crop of tales that showcase the depth and richness of the world Mignola has created.Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Best of Subterranean’ edited by William Schafer

The Best of Subterranean edited by William Schafer
Subterranean Press (July 2017)
752 pages; $37.74 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

In what is already being looked back on as a groundbreaking ten-year run, Subterranean magazine published a staggering array of stories featuring one elite, award-winning author after another. Three years after the last issue was published, The Best of Subterranean arrives as an overdue celebration of one our finest, most lamented genre magazines.Continue Reading

Christopher Golden on Hellboy and his Assortment of Horrors

Obviously, there’s no name more synonymous with the character of Hellboy than that of creator Mike Mignola. However, Christopher Golden runs a close second. Golden, a prolific best-selling author of original novels, media tie-in books and countless short stories, helped pioneer the line of Hellboy prose novels and anthologies, beginning with 1997’s The Lost Army and continuing this month with Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors. He’s also a screenwriter (along with Mignola and Andrew Cosby) of the upcoming Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, the Neil Marshall-directed reboot of the Hellboy film franchise. Golden was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk with Cemetery Dance Online about his long history in the world of Hellboy.
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Review: ‘The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film’

The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film text by Daniel Wallace
Scribner (July 2017)
208 pages; $27.19 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Some might view books like The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film as big, expensive brochures for upcoming movies, but for me they’ve always provided a fascinating glimpse into the process of bringing these large-scale extravaganzas to our screens. Even when they come from the kind of rich source material of, say, an eight-book series written by Stephen King, there’s a lot of designing and refining that goes into the look of a movie like The Dark Tower. This volume gives us a glimpse of that, but I’ll confess that it left me wanting much, much more.Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Process (is a Process All its Own)’ by Peter Straub

The Process (is a Process All its Own) by Peter Straub
Subterranean Press (July 2017)
96 pages; $40.00 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

The majority of slasher fiction—whether it’s short stories, books, or movies—tends to focus on the hunt. Here’s a group of thinly-sketched victims, cannon fodder to be creatively knocked off one-by-one; and here’s a killer, often silent, usually masked, his or her motivations as mysterious as their identity. What comes after is, more often than not, a by-the-numbers recreation of the stalk-n-slash formula that’s been a staple of horror since the 1970s.*Continue Reading

Review: ‘Mormama’ by Kit Reed

Mormama by Kit Reed
Tor Books (May 2017)
288 pages; $17.63 hardcover; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

I love “quiet horror.” I love a book filled with tension, atmosphere, and that creeping-up-on-you sense of unease where you can’t quite put your finger on what is wrong, but you know something is.

Here’s the thing: eventually, all that atmosphere and tension and unease has to pay off. When it does, it’s magic. When it doesn’t, it’s like cracking open a cold soft drink only to find that it’s gone flat.

Mormama, I’m sorry to say, is the flat soft drink of haunted house books.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Final Girls’ by Mira Grant

Final Girls by Mira Grant
Subterranean Press (May  2017)
111 pages; $40.00 hardcover; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Mira Grant mixes a diverse set of influences ranging from The Matrix to A Nightmare On Elm Street to produce her fresh, tautly-written new novella, Final Girls.

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Heading Up the Skelton Crew: An Interview with Israel Skelton

Locke & Key replica keys by Skelton Crew Studio.
A selection of Locke & Key replica keys created by Skelton Crew Studio.

Skelton Crew Studio, a comic book replica studio based in the wilds of Maine, was founded by Israel Skelton in 2008. A sculptor and creator for more than 30 years, Skelton first made a name for his studio with a replica key based on the critically-acclaimed comic series Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Collaborations with a wide variety of creators soon followed, and Skelton Crew Studio’s work is now highly sought after among collectors and creators alike. Skelton Crew has a busy year ahead of them—more on that in a minute—so we appreciate Israel Skelton taking a few moments to discuss his work with us.

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)Continue Reading

Interview: Ania Ahlborn

An Interview with Ania Ahlborn

Ania Ahlborn is the bestselling author of the horror thrillers Brother, Within These Walls, The Bird Eater, The Shuddering, The Neighbors, and Seed, and the novella The Pretty Ones. Her latest release is The Devil Crept In, out now from Gallery Books. Recently, Ania was kind enough to take time out from exploring the dark corners of her imagination to share a few words with us.

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Review: ‘Universal Harvester’ by John Darnielle

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (February 7, 2017)
224 pages; $15.00 hardcover; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

When you work at Cemetery Dance, you tend to make certain assumptions about the books publishers send to you for review. Sometimes, those assumptions are way off. John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester proved to be one of those instances….in the best possible way.

When I got the book (cleverly packaged in a plastic clamshell case like an old VHS tape, for reasons that would become clear when I read it) and scanned its press sheet, a few things jumped out at me: mentions of the “haunted, open landscape of middle-America;” “ominous and disturbing footage” spliced into a video store’s rental tapes; an investigation into “the origins of these unsettling scenes.” I took these tidbits and began to splice together my own version of the book.Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Devil Crept In’ by Ania Ahlborn

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (February 7, 2017)
374 pages; $11.04 paperback; $11.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

The Devil Crept In is the second people-go-into-the-woods-and-bad-things-happen book I’ve read this year (after Nick Cutter’s excellent Little Heaven), and the third in recent memory (including Paul Tremblay’s excellent Disappearance at Devil’s Rock). Ania Ahlborn’s latest novel stands shoulder-to-shoulder with those two—not just because of the premise, but because of the excellence of its execution. Continue Reading

Review: ‘Little Heaven’ by Nick Cutter

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter
Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (January 10, 2017)
496 pages; $19.87 hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Little Heaven is the first major horror novel of 2017, and it’s going to take a monumental deluge of quality horror to keep it off of those end-of-year best-of lists that will start popping up 11 months from now.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire’ by Joe R. Lansdale

dead_on_the_bones_by_joe_r_lansdaleDead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire by Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean Press (December 2016)
296 pages; $40.00 hardcover
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

“I was living in a pulp writer fury, a storm of imagination.”

That’s how author Joe R. Lansdale describes his early years, that delicate time when a steady diet of television shows, comic books and Edgar Rice Burroughs novels cemented his desire to become a writer. Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire is full of stories in which Lansdale seeks to honor those early influences that have given him—and, in turn, his readers—so much.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Slipping’ by Lauren Beukes

slippingSlipping: Stories, Essays & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes
Tachyon Publications (November 2016)
264 pages; $9.75 paperback; $9.26 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

 

Lauren Beukes’s work as a journalist in South Africa, where she covered topics ranging from slums to shark diving, gave her a sharp eye for detail and a sharp ear for dialogue. These tools are employed to great effect in in Slipping: Stories, Essays and Other Writing.

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