I don’t generally review short stories unless they are part of a collection, but this one disappeared on me. I was browsing free books to download for my Kindle when this particular one appeared. I ‘bought’ it and later that evening I started to read it. I finished it the next night as it only took about an hour to read, but when Goodreads requested a rating an error message came up. I searched both Goodreads and Amazon and this short story, as I mentioned earlier, had disappeared. Maybe the publisher or author hadn’t intended for it to be available for free. Who knows?
Anyway, a flying circus lands in a small village and a teenage boy pleads with his father to be allowed to see the circus. A grumpy old clown is taking everyone’s money and encouraging them all to buy hot dogs. I can’t really tell you any more of the plot without giving away the ending. Suffice it to say, this book was deservedly in the horror category. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be keeping an eye out for more books by Clint Lowe.
When I first started to read horror novels back in the late 80’s, Richard Laymon was one of my favourite authors. He didn’t try to write literature (Stephen King), or try to be too dark (Clive Barker) or try to shock for shocks sake (Shaun Hutson). Instead Mr Laymon wrote good honest scary horror novels with a plot that moved along nicely, with the odd twist, and a good smattering of gore. It must have been at least 20 years since I read Quake. It was with sadness that I found out that he’d died in 2001, so decided to download one of his e-books, especially as many of them were priced at 0.99p.
The plot for Night Show is quite simple. A High School girl is tricked into visiting a ‘haunted’ house where someone else pretends to me a classic hockey mask wearing serial killer, scaring the hell out of her. She runs out of the house and into the street where she is hit by a car. After many months of convalescence she recovers with revenge on her mind. The other part of the story is a pair of lovers who work in Hollywood as special effects artists for horror films.
At times the book felt a little dated, however it was first published in 1984, and the story is probably more simplistic than what would be expected today. Despite this, I enjoyed the book and gave it 4 out of 5 on Goodreads. Next up I might look at reading something by Shaun Hutson, Graham Masterton or Peter Straub, among the many other horror writers that I used to read many years ago. Alternatively I could search out some of the best from the newer writers out there, possibly Joe Hill (who does look exactly like his old man), or maybe Oddjobs Part 2 (read my review of Part 1 here).
This was the very first horror novel I read. If I recall my older sister lent me a copy when I was 13 or 14, too young for a book like this. Older sisters being what they are, she probably wanted me to get nightmares. That is an aside, as this was my gateway book to the horror genre, which I like to dip back into every now and again. The late James Herbert was the foremost horror writer in the UK of his generation, followed by Shaun Hutson, who like to shock rather than build layers of scare. Of course the most inventive UK horror writer is Clive Barker and his Books of Blood still knock spots off anything else out there.
Back to The Rats and it’s a simple tale (tail). Overly large rats infest the east end of London, they obtain a taste for human flesh and carry a disease that kills anyone bitten within 24 hours. What’s not to like. My original copy of the book has long since gone to a charity shop, but my replacement was printed to celebrate the books 40th anniversary, with an excellent foreword written by Neil Gaiman. As Neil writes, it was James’ first book and his writing improved with every subsequent book. The main character is slightly two dimensional and some of the back stories for the minor characters feel overly developed. The book is also quite dated, but not necessarily in a bad way. It took many years for James to find a publisher, and you can tell that it was written in the 1960’s, with derelict waste ground, a result of German bombs during the second world war, becoming breeding grounds for the rats. There is also only one female character, the main character’s partner, who even though she works is still expected to cook a hot breakfast each day for her man, and then cook supper in the evening. There something else in the book which dates it, but I’m not going to mention that here. You would probably guess what I’m talking about if you read the book.
Despite all this the plot moves along in a fast pace all the way through, with a couple of nice twists and turns, and even 35 years after I first read it, re-reading it was hugely enjoyable. The book is also fairly short, especially when compared to some of Stephen King’s tomes, and is all the better for it. The sequels, Lair and Domain make this a great trilogy of rat based horror. Maybe I should did out an old Shaun Hutson book next, or something by the late Richard Laymon. This blog sure is bringing back some memories for me.