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___MINI-VIEWS #6___




I 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 of Ambien.

Finally, the times caught up with Ray Garton.

Anyone not watching True Blood out there, eh?

(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 of lifeforce?



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.


I 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.


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 pages.

I love Nature Fights Back stories. I shoulda given this more time, I suspect.

Dead at page 29.




The 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.

(1) 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.





The 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.


Copyright 07/15/2010 by Larry Crawford


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