Recently I was sitting on my porch and watching the autumn sky change color when I was suddenly possessed by an urgent desire to visit a bookstore. I began to sweat and my teeth were chattering incessantly. I knew from experience that the only solution was to jump in my car to drive to Barnes & Noble, the closest bookstore. Once at B&N I was besieged by yet another problem. What should I spend my money on? Should I buy the latest fat best-seller on the “New Releases” table? No, I just couldn’t do it! Those books usually suck. My feet propelled me to the kids section. Had I gone mad? A wicked, involuntary laugh flew off my maniacal lips. I knew what I wanted! Shuffling like a hunchbacked Irish gnome through aisles overflowing with crap by authors whose names are tagged to my voodoo doll collection, I finally rested my hand on the latest Goosebumps novel, Trick or Trap by R. L. Stine. Yes! That’s it! Rushing home, I sat down in my cobweb infested recliner and read Trick or Trap from cover to cover. Scott Harmon is afraid of everything, but he’s tired of being picked on by the Klass brothers. Scott and his friend Amanda want to redeem themselves, and they want revenge for being picked on. There’s a creepy old house down the street and Scott and Amanda decide to spend some time inside as a way to overcome their fearful natures. But will they survive and finally get revenge? Goosebumps fans won’t be surprised by anything that happens here, and it all proves that R. L. Stine still has that wickedly cool imagination. Happy Halloween!
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
Is The Slime Beast the perfect Guy N. Smith horror novel? Well, it has one of the best covers found on this 1976 NEL (New English Library) paperback. Smith once again uses a marsh as the setting for some horrific happenings. The monster this time is presumed to be a creature from beyond the stars that crash landed on earth. The characterizations and mayhem are all typical of a Smith novel. Being a Guy N. Smith fan I rather fancied this one. The Slime Beast isn’t all that long, and I breezed through it quickly. When a scholarly group in search of King John’s missing treasure uncovers the body of a green skinned, scaly monster they find themselves in the middle of some nasty happenings. Professor Lowson wants to to study the creature rather than report his discovery, but when the creature disappears and then reappears with the obvious intent of killing people, the suspense level heats up. Naturally, there’s some quick and saucy sex, and throwaway characters that come to a gruesome end. In other words, The Slime Beast may be predictable, especially for those of you who have read Smith’s many other novels, but the entertainment is right on the mark. I’ve posted about Smith before and I have enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read. His imagination and hard work at the typewriter have consistently produced one steadfast thriller after another. The Slime Beast fits right into any autumn reading list. After all, Halloween is fast approaching and the shadows are lengthening. There’s a chill in the air and something out there in the marsh is moving. Something big and ugly. As a reader I can sense that Smith is having fun writing these things and I’m happy to go along for the ride.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Vampire’s Moon (1970) by Peter Saxon enjoyed popularity upon its publication in paperback. It was reprinted a few times and then disappeared. It would be entirely forgotten today if not for a modest renewal of interest in the horror paperback novels of Peter Saxon, a pseudonym created by W. Howard Baker who was an editor and writer for Amalgamated Press. The name Peter Saxon became a publishing house pseudonym for a variety of supernatural titles in addition to many detective Sexton Blake thrillers. Several other writers wrote under the Saxon nom de guerre, including Wilfred G. McNeilly and Martin Thomas. In addition to Vampire’s Moon, other popular titles included The Torturer (1966), The Darkest Night (1966), Satan’s Child (1968), The Curse of Rathlaw (1968), Black Honey (1968) and The Haunting of Alan Mais (1969). It is generally believed that Baker himself wrote Vampire’s Moon, an entertaining gothic tale in the tradition of Bram Stoker. Set in modern times, the story takes place in Transylvania and Saxon sets the tone early: “Transylvania was the home of the vampire and the werewolf. No mere shadows from horror films, they were still feared in the manner of centuries.” The vampire here is Count Zapolia, simply another version of the Dracula legend. Zapolia’s intent is to lure a woman under his influence to create a vampire bride. “Tonight would be a step forward in a plan conceived by the brain of the undead human. His brain, poised between natural life and eternal death, needed a mate, as a man does.” (p.27) Count Zapolia also possesses the power of transformation. He can become a werewolf or a bat, as he chooses. Zapolia’s transformation follows the established routine: “The jaw thrust forward and the lips curled away from the teeth in a dreadful rictus. His eyebrows became bushier and grew together, as his hair became coarse and tufts of it sprouted from his smooth forehead. The mouth, in its shocking gape, widened and deepened. The gums thrust forward and the teeth extended into points. The two canine incisors grew out and curved below the others, as he changed into a creature with the face half of a man and half of a wolf.” There seems little doubt that such transformation scenes in pulp fiction owe a debt of gratitude to Universal Studio’s The Wolf-Man (1941). I found Vampire’s Moon on paperback racks during a period when small budget horror films were turning a profit in the drive-in movie market. It’s one of my favorite “Peter Saxon” novels.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Errol Lecale was a pseudonym for Wilfred McNeilly who was part of London’s famed Fleet Street writers and also contributed many Sexton Blake novellas. Blood of My Blood is book # 6 in “The Specialist” series he wrote for the New English Library in 1975. “The Specialist” is Eli Podgram, a small man and spare of build but with a patch of white hair amongst his black hair shaped like a cross. Years earlier, in Transylvania, Podgram had been transformed into a vampire temporarily, and shortly saved himself from vampirism with the help of father Ignatius who performed a quick blood transfusion on Podgram. Thus being literally saved, Podgram commences to use his familiarity with “The Twilight World” of vampires, werewolves and other ghouls of the night to save others. In Blood of My Blood Podgram is called upon to investigate the resurgence of an ancient vampire in Transylvania, the land of his heritage. Soon he discovers the denizens of evil are conspiring to destroy Podgram himself, and among his enemies are a woman who is part cat and part human. At the center of this evil mechanization is Azakan of Ishboleth, a creature of immense evil strength. Blood of My Blood has it all; dank and gloomy castles, werewolves, shape-shifters and supernatural suspense in large doses. Strong images, suspense and the gothic mood make Blood of My Blood and all of “The Specialist” books great entertainments. Other titles in the series include The Tigerman of Terrahpur, Castledoom, The Severed Hand, The Death Box and Zombie. I love the creepy cover for Blood of My Blood. E-bay is your best bet to find these New English Library horror classics.
Friday, October 2, 2015
The Tomb of Terror premiered with a cover date of June, 1952 and featured four stories. This was the era prior to psychiatrist Frederic Wertham waging his moral war on popular culture with his book Seduction of the Innocent (1954) which hypothesized that such publications had a negative impact on America’s impressionable youth. I’ve read Seduction of the Innocent and it really boils down to Wertham asserting his fractured psychiatric principals on a public that he clearly thought was too stupid to differentiate reality from fantasy. The Tomb of Terror was competing with EC Comics for a secure position in the horror genre but they never really succeeded at the same level as EC titles such as Tales from the Crypt or Weird Fantasy. PS Artbooks have reprinted the Harvey horror titles. Also available are The Chamber of Chills, Witches Tales and Black Cat. These are facsimile reproductions. The paper quality is better than the original and the covers are printed as glossies. The stories are short, cheesy and fun. I love quality, full-color comic book reproductions and The Tomb of Terror tickled my fancy. I suppose old Frederic Wertham would have a stroke to learn that today these comic books are as popular as ever. Such books have an after-life that rivals the ghosts and creatures and muck-encrusted monsters that populate their pages. The titles alone are mouth-watering: “The Dead Awaken,” “The Thing From the Center of the Earth,” “The Cult of Evil,” “The Crypt of Death,” and “Graveyard Monsters” to name a few. Put this one next your pumpkin and lite a candle to keep the dark creatures at bay. Then, just before midnight curl up in a chair begin reading these Harvey horror classics. You know you want to. Just do it.