RAY GARTON, c.2008.
don't know about you, but I have certain favorite authors that
I covet because they aren't so well known, which, these days
means they haven't had a multiplex movie hit or a glamorama media
event associated with them. They are the grunts in the shadowy
basement rooms churning out pulpy but creatively twisted storylines,
usually in PBO format, and getting paid for it pennies on the
word. In Horror, think Skipp & Spector, Michael Shea,
Richard Laymon. Some of my favorites are Tom Picilliri, Greg
Gifune, John Farris, Graham Masterton.
And Ray Garton.
I got bit by Ray Garton for the first time way back
20 years ago in 1987 when I read Live Girls. I was
delighted that someone finally brought vampire sexuality out
of the closet's shadow and graphically pegged fang penetration
with sexual fetishism, where it's always belonged since 1872
via Le Fanu's Carmilla(1).
To paraphrase the Zombie Strippers' tagline, “they'll
dance for a fee, but chew ya for free” stages Garton's no-nonsense
approach without any of those snobnosed, brainmush allusions
to a dysfunctional society becoming entropathic through its misplaced
sexual fixations of turning flesh to object. Today, our puritanical
history in its current stuttering self-righteousness still fires
the backlash of forbidden fruitiness that's turned procreation
into an entertainment. We're probably well beyond the moral turpitude
to feel guilt for fantasizing an immortal but soulless life colored
exclusively in the glorious debauchery of savage murder, lupine
rampage, and brutal, feral sex. So don't go stickin' your dork
into a bathroom glory hole unless you'll chance gettin' it bit
off. And how sick are you for needing that scary possibility
as a further savor anyway?
Ravenous does the same thing as Live Girls by
mating boners with bestiality. “Physical contact, orgasm, release—these
are the other things for which the werewolf hungers,” says Fargo —the
obligatory tall, darkly-shrouded Lycanthrope hunter extraordinaire —while
viewing unidentifiable human remains. “A very savage release,
because it was very likely at that point that she began to eat
her husband” (p.190). Traditional legends are shattered further
by these man-beasts that visualize very similar to their cinematic
cousins across the pond from 2002's Dog Soldiers (“Six
soldiers. Full moon. No chance”). But, it's like every night,
not just that full moon nonsense; they're telepathic with the
alpha male organizing the pack; transformations are from a virus
that's sexually transmitted. Still, the only way to kill them
is burning or piercing them with silver.
“Your town has an infestation of werewolves” (p.182)
is not what any small-town sheriff wants to hear, let alone
believe. Lots of pages are devoted to convincing the characters
what we, the readers, already know. But Garton balances that
with intimate views of the transformations themselves, letting
you know that the characters you've come to enjoy are as vulnerable
as the obvious villains are to never seeing the final pages
of this tale. He easily balances the disease of Lycanthropy
against the inhumanity of man.
Instead of kissing her, when he reached orgasm he liked
to spit in her face. He'd just get on top of her, pound away
until he came, and as he came, he'd spit in her face, maybe
call her a cunt, then roll over and go to sleep.
This is from the husband
who is an undiscovered serial rapist treating his
wife as if she was a piñata full
Finally, the times caught up with Ray Garton.
Anyone not watching True Blood out
(1) I am not implying—as
Queen Victoria did—that lesbianism
is a perversion. Fetishism is the replacement of people with
artifacts as objects of desire. Stilettos and bowler hats come
to mind, but isn't the ultimate fetish the dead body, drained
BLACK COMPANY by
This is the entrance into a carnival
of novels that is not based on the historical Black
Company that fought to its end during a peasant's revolt
in the early 1500s which occurred in the Protestant Reformation
of Germany. No, this is strictly dark fantasy living in the
military campaigns for and against an all-powerful sorceress
and her human armies led by a dozen or so resurrected magical
minions. It is a tableau invigorating the current trend in
Fantasy literature, as seen through the works of Abercrombie,
Kearney, Morgan, etc. Plot-wise, it is in the trenches covered
with sweat, grime, and blood, harking the struggles of the
common soldiers "in a world filled with devious, prevaricating,
unpredictable, scheming people" (Tor PB, ISBN 0812521390,
8th printing, c.1984, p.205). Design-wise, it is a left-field
kick in the head that these roughneck but affable mercenaries
are fighting for the wrong side.
I like and respect this book. Sequel-wise, It opens the door
to a world I do not have time to explore right now. Follow
this link to get a grip on its inclusiveness.
WINDUP GIRL by
PAOLO BACIGALUPI, c.2009.
see why this book won the Nebula this year. It's good, literate
good. But I don't have a lot to say about it right now. Steampunk
through Asian eyes? I don't know.
FAMILY TREE by
SHERI S. TEPPER, c.1997.
This author runs lotsa ideas through the
ol' word processor. Her oeuvre is like a jar full of lightening
bugs out on the back porch. Some of ‘em are bound to shine brighter,
and some of ‘em just can't seem to get up the spark.
Unfortunately, this novel represents the latter, for me, anyway.
It starts out so unbelievable with characters so mis-matched
and cardboardy I couldn't see myself chopping through its 492
I love Nature Fights Back stories. I shoulda given this more
time, I suspect.
Dead at page 29.
SARAH LANGAN, c.2009
aspiration here is not to be a trendy, psychological thriller—although
it is that—but a genuine, old-fashioned haunted house yarn.
In her preface, Ms. Langan acknowledges her guides through
the cobwebs of these stories(1),
then launches a unique and fascinating re-imagining of the lynchpin
for this sub-genre in her depiction of a once luxurious apartment
building in New York City.
The Breviary would be an irresistible lure
to any passionate architect, and Audrey, being a newly-degreed
neophyte to a prestigious Manhattan firm, cannot resist the
astonishingly-low cost vacancy caused by a recent act of filicide.
Built in 1861 by an iniquitous architectural visionary, it
is the last remaining example of Chaotic Naturalism, a quasi-philosophy
turned cultus that imagined the world broken away from following
any logical pattern recognition. Extended to buildings, the
structures tried to model nature — not
Euclidian geometry — by shunning right angles, linear progressions
and embracing spirals and vine-like growths. But instead they “broke
apart these natural patterns into a disjointed mishmash, as if
to prove that not even God held providence over man [and] . .
. became closed universes unto themselves” (Harper PBO, ISBN
9780061624216, c.2009, p.54). The rich and influential zealots
who inhabited lived not only in defiance of gravity, but, as
time proved by murders, suicides, and unspeakable depravities,
their sanity as well.
Sarah's page for video trailer (a must!)
Characters' choices are rarely judicious in Horror.
That's because Horror is never about logic. There's only enough
of it there to hold the reader down so emotional responses
and/or defenses can shred what's left of their rational mind.
Sensory perceptions become suspect as the surroundings change
from naturally defined to invariably hostile, intimidating,
untrustworthy. And all grounding certainly falls away when
your title character is not only OCD, but, as a sympatric co-worker
puts it, “You're pretty weird.
Like somebody broke you, and you keep trying to put yourself
back together, only you do it wrong” (p.137).
This is a novel about a girl
going fucking bonkers, after all. And she's got such a horrific
past that she should go
batshit in her own devising. But Audrey's personal demon war
is just the appetizer, because the
pièce de résistance is
always The Breviary; so much so that there's even a whiff of
the idea that it represents those old-money, die-hard stringpullers
of conservative America that defy change and progress like “gargoyles
. . . among the rest of the modern glass condominiums on the
block . . . a twisted black tooth along a gleaming white smile” (p.280).
Who are the inhabitants from its 150-year span but the inbred,
incestuous offspring from legacies the likes of the Robber
Barons of yesteryear?
This novel won another Stoker for its author
this year, making it three years running. I'll bet her next
novel will be even better.
The author refers to The Haunting of Hill House and The
Shining which goalpost the playing field for this sub-genre.
Jackson, through Dr. Montague, says “the evil is in the house
itself”; King calls the Overlook “the house-as-psychic-battery”.
Fundamentally, the house—or hotel—is the spiritual
black hole where the psychic and psychotic collide in both
dead and living people.
But Audrey won't be having her baby among those other evil wretches in Levin's
brownstone uptown and, concerning Polanski, I'd hafta say she's substituted
Carole--Catherine Denevue's character--from Repulsion of 1965 into
Roman's role of 1976's The Tenant, although Ms. Langan doesn't
have enough noir in her to script Audrey for that second jump.
E. L. DOCTOROW, C.2005
March is marvelous.
Without going into detail why I find it
difficult to write reviews of important works, I am going to
hand this one off to the professionals.
Go here for a synopsis, analysis, and links
to top-tier criticism.
07/15/2010 by Larry Crawford