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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

3 Books a Month – October (Scary Readings)

Okay, quick re-cap although we're five month into this now – lovely wife and partner Nicole D'Amato created a three-book-a-month challenge. For October, I may have leaned slightly towards Stephen King. And it may have been a little infectious. Not only was 1408 one of the Halloween horror movies watched (re-watched) this month, but Nicki was compelled to delve into King's “Pet Sematary” over a re-watch of Mary Lambert's incredible film version. Admittedly, I also had only read King's “Pet Sematary” novel earlier this year. However, I feel I made up for that infraction by consuming not only one of my favourite Bachman Book (and King's least favourite), “Roadwork”. I had no expectations for this novel and found it King at some of his most mundanely humane – and I actually mean this in a very good way. His take on marriage and human relationships are far ahead of his then-young years (the novel was written in the seventies, post-'Salem's Lot). 

Adding to this I actually, finally, read “The Skin Trade” (aka “Dark Visions”) which includes stories by Stephen King, Dan Simmons (as I continues the exploration of his work from last month's “Lovedeath”), and George RR “Game of Thrones” Martin, in his experimental horror days. The standout of this book, for me, was an otherwise-unpublished novella by Stephen King titles Dedication. Can't explain that one here, but should be read, and I was so glad that it was at least published as part of this literary genre anthology. 

I also worked in a retrospective of Ray Russell's gothic works, published by Penguin and curated by filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, titled “Haunted Castles”. Ray Russell is fast become one of my favourite underrated genre writers. (If you can get it, please read his short novel “A Case against Satan”). 

And lastly, while I was fully intending to take in yet another Preacher graphic novel, that intention was thwarted whan I came across a novel by Craig Spector – one half of the 80s-90s splatterpunk team of Skipp/Spector – in a thrift shop for a buck. Truthfully, I'd been interested in this book, “To Bury the Dead”, for quite some time. I'd read one of John Skipp's solo efforts (post-”Animals”), but I was curious about Craig Spector's solo work as well. During the reading of “To Bury the Dead”, I have to admit, I was mostly left with the feeling that from Spector's point of view, his writing really benefited from his previous partnership of John Skipp. Skipp's writing is more pared-down, pulpy, fast and furious. While Craig Spector undoubtedly maintains a high energy to his writing, it's thickly steeped in machismo and patriarchal heroism; it's testosterone-fueled to the point of being a little eyebrow-raising in these times. As fast as I was burning through the pages of “To Bury the Dead”, I was constantly and uncomfortably aware of the author's then-ideas of male-dominated ego-heroism. However, through the last fifty or so pages, things took a turn towards the existentially philosophical, turning something that at first appeared bizarrely conservative and right-wing into a work that explored ideas of, overall, understanding – which sort of saved this novel for me (and took it in a turn towards the surprising liberal). If anything, Spector's novel ends up being an experience in the complexities of Americans' personal beliefs and politics, and ideals that may have been built in the blood of America but has also softened in the education of the people. I'm actually glad I read this novel for the first time in the currently heated times of America, Americans, and their politics. It gives a strange light to Spector's work. Conversely, of you might be interested in his ex-writing-partner's anarchic horror-lit, may I recommend Skipps's “The Long Last Call”. Next month, I'll be back on Preacher! 


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