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Saturday, December 09, 2017

50 Pages a Night – Vol. 1

Welcome to the new Horror Lit series, where over the next year I'll be exploring the lost pages of the horror-lit paperback originals of the eighties and nineties! The idea for this series was inspired by my own interest in going back to some of the horror novels I missed reading in the heyday of the horror paperback book-publishing era – an era in which I discovered Dell's “Abyss” line of horror lit and authors like Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, Rex Miller, Richard Laymon, John Skipp & Craig Spector, David J. Schow, Graham Masterton, Dennis Etichson, Joe R. Lansdale, Chet Williamson, Zebra Horror, Leisure Horror, and TOR Horror – the last of which has actually posted a short blog on their website where editors and writers revisit and review some of the old TOR Horror paperback titles of the eighties – and which in itself was mostly responsible for re-igniting my passion for these novels upon accidentally discovering TOR Publishing's blog (while searching for who-knows-what-now on the internet). Even more recently, horror author Grady Hendrix had his book “Paperbacks from Hell” published by Quirk Books, which only served to fuel the fire of my rediscoveries of these dark, forgotten, and creative treasures. 

First embarking on my own personal dust-collecting minor collection of TOR novels, I went for the ones that had remained unread, at the back of my bookshelves, for the past 19 years... I decided I'd go in alphabetical order. First up: Scott Baker's “Webs”. This was a fantastic one for me to start with as Baker's narrative is deeply hallucinogenic without alienating the plot nor the reader – about a professor who takes a new job and is put up in an out-of-the-way house on a huge property. From their, his hypnotic madness begins to increase along with the spiders, the stress, his sexual situations and the emotional breakdown of his relationships (including his insane wife whom he has locked up in an asylum and communicates with via compulsive letter-writing), and the possible murder of one of his colleague who was last seen on his own property. A fair breeze to get through, I went right ahead and jumped into Ramsay Campbell's “The Doll Who Ate His Mother”, which was one of two Campbell books (along with “The Face that Must Die”) at a used bookshop during a cross-country summer roadtrip over a decade ago. Like “Webs”, Campbell's “The Doll Who Ate His Mother” has a horror-hallucinogenic quality to it, although Campbell expertly keeps his plot entirely rooted in worldly reality. Everything that occurs during an amateur investigation by the lead character following the severing and theft of her brother's arm (during a car accident in the middle of the night) all seems plausible within the horror-world Ramsey Campbell has easily constructed for us, with the virtuoso stroke of his proverbial pen, it's only when I mentally stepped back from “The Doll Who Ate His Mother” did I realize that his prose has completely lulled me into the action of his seductively haunting fiction. 

Following these first two reads, I found myself back in the used bookstores, where I was now on the rabid lookout for more TOR Horror treasures from yesteryear. And certainly, I found them. Committing myself as of this month (October, 2017) to reading 50 pages of these horror-lit paperbacks per night, I have managed to devour W.K. Jeter's “Dark Seeker”, which was yet another paranoid hallucinatory horror story, this time about of group on Manson-cult-like murderers who were all psychically connected by an experimental drug conceived by the American government, before moving directly onto F.W. Armstrong's wild, sexy, and humourous vampire novel “The Devouring”, which is by far the most fast-paced and fun of the group of old TOR Horror novels I've recently gotten myself into. I was so into this one, despite the dwindling hours of the night, that I read 50 pages of this on top of the final 30 pages from Jeter's “Dark Seeker”. I'm very excited to get back into the exploits and shenanigans of the teenage vampire and the psychic investigator as Armstrong's story is so far going like a twisting rollercoaster. So, to be continued...

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