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.

Bev Vincent explores It (2017) – Chapter 1

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

Welcome to the Losers’ Club by Bev Vincent

There are a lot of monsters in Derry, Maine during the summer of 1989. These are in addition to the lurching leper, the toothy creature from the painting, a boy who lost his head during the Easter Explosion of 1908 and, of course, Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

The monsters to which I refer are the citizens of this long-troubled, perhaps cursed town. They include people who drive past without offering to help a boy being savagely beaten by bullies, the mother who lies to her son about his health to control and manipulate him, and the sexually abusive father. To the extent that there are adults in Derry (and in some ways, this reality resembles the world of Charlie Brown where grown-ups are seldom seen and hardly ever heard), they are abusive, neglectful or emotionally absent.
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Review: ‘Behold! Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders’ edited by Doug Murano

Behold! Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders edited by Doug Murano
Crystal Lake Publishing (July 2017)
280 pages; $16.99 paperback; $3.99 e-book
Reviewed by Chad Lutzke

This is Crystal Lake Publishing’s second anthology with Doug Murano acting as editor—the first being Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. It’s also their second anthology that brought in some very big names, which no doubt aided in healthy sales, securing a nice spot at the top of Amazon’s anthology charts. The ironic thing is, those big names (Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, and Ramsey Campbell) brought the weakest stories to an otherwise very solid collection. Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Truants’ by Lee Markham

The Truants by Lee Markham
The Overlook Press (July 2017)
256 pages; $6.99 paperback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

The Truants is Lee Markham’s debut novel and, in some ways, it shows.

I admit I had a love-hate relationship with this book. It was a bit esoteric for me and the author had an annoying habit of just listing the character’s actions. For example…Continue Reading

Review: ‘Meddling Kids’ by Edgar Cantero

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Doubleday (July 2017)
336 pages; $18.32 hardback; $13.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

If you need to ask where the title of this book comes from, you’re probably too young to understand the references within (unless you enjoy classic reruns of the great cartoon), but not too young to enjoy this fun story, which is pure entertainment. Continue Reading

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: ‘Indigo’ (Various Authors)

Indigo by Various Authors
St. Martin’s Press (June 2017)
352 pages; $19.27 hardback; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

I found Indigo to be overall satisfying, but it was certainly not without its faults.

Indigo features the talents of great genre writers like Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley Armstrong, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James Moore, and Mark Morris. However, with these many strong writers, each bringing their own voice to the story, there were times when, as a reader, it seemed the tale would be going in one direction and suddenly it would change dramatically as a new writer took the reins. Continue Reading

Review: ‘3 Minutes’ by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström

3 Minutes by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström
Quercus (July 2017)
432 pages; $18.35 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Now for something quite different: a Nordic thriller set in South America. While several Scandinavian authors continue to invade the bookshelves of American readers, almost all of them are set in those countries, which isn’t a bad thing. Unknown settings make for exciting reads. Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström have exploded onto the scene, most recently with 3 Seconds, and here, with the sequel, 3 Minutes. 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

Review: ‘Black Mad Wheel’ by Josh Malerman

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman
Ecco (May 2017)
304 pages; $17.29 hardback; $12.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

When Bird Box hit the horror scene three years ago, something special happened. Readers discovered a new voice, one which was lyrical and rhythmic but could also turn brutal on the next page. Josh Malerman wrote like a musician carving away at an album of great songs.The result was a true original which should have won the Bram Stoker award.Continue Reading

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: ‘Boy’s Night: An Extreme Horror’ by Wrath James White and Matt Shaw

Boy’s Night: An Extreme Horror by Wrath James White and Matt Shaw
CreateSpace (June 2017)

91 pages, $7.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

I generally dig Wrath James White. Both The Ressurectionist and 400 Days of Oppression held sly, unique takes on what usually qualifies as “Hardcore” or “Extreme” horror. I don’t really know anything about Matt Shaw, but this is the book Amazon dumped from their catalog until the cover was redesigned, so I had to buy it, though it has been returned with a different cover.

Unfortunately, it failed to live up to my expectations. Continue Reading

Review: ‘Bone White’ by Ronald Malfi

Bone White by Ronald Malfi
Kensington (July 2017)
384 pages; $10.17 paperback; $7.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

Seven years ago I was sent an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) for a novel called Snow by some author named Ronald Malfi. I’d not read anything by him then, and at first the novel looked pretty pedestrian. Monsters devastate a town during a blizzard. The initial setup seemed to point in that direction: a flight is cancelled because of the snowstorm, so several folks set out in a rental car to try for home the long way, and come upon a town cut off by the storm. It looked like a fairly simple paint-by-the-numbers affair, albeit written very well.Continue Reading

Review: ‘Blood Sacrifice’ by Barry Hoffman

Blood Sacrifice by Barry Hoffman
Next Century Publishing (March 2017)
408 pages; $12.95 paperback; $7.95 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Barry Hoffman is back with a kick-ass thriller that is also a horror novel, crime novel, supernatural novel and more, all wrapped up in a story which races by in what can easily be called his best effort since his “Eyes” series. Blood Sacrifice brings into the fold a set of new characters which hopefully will be returning in future entries. Continue Reading

Review: ‘The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Dead’ by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree

The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Dead by Cullenn Bunn, Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree
Oni Press (March 2017)

152 pages, $9.99 paperback; $1.99 e-book
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

The Damned Volume 1: Three Days Dead can only be described as horror noir. It’s set during prohibition, when mobsters and criminal organizations build fortune peddling vice to the citizens of the city. However, those sins are controlled not by human gangsters, but by rival families of demons. The long-standing feud between two of the families is about the come to an end thanks to a brokered deal to consolidate power. But before things can be finalized, the bookkeeper tasked to brokering the deal is kidnapped along with a ledger that could spell doom for all the families.Continue Reading