In my late teens that only books I would read were from the horror section, much like the only music I would listen to was heavy metal. One friend introduced me to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, and another friend introduced me to the band Half Man Half Biscuit. Within a few years I was reading and listening to a wide spectrum of books and music.

This got me think about how authors become pigeon-holed in a specific genre, and that many authors definitely don’t stick with that initial genre. Dean Koontz has written many out and out horror books, for example Phantoms or Watchers, but he’s also written some out and out thrillers, for example Dark Rivers of the Heart or the Jane Hawk Series.

Continuing my thought process, what actually is ‘horror’? At the classic level you might suggest good old fashioned monsters, with Vampires and Werewolves. What about Cujo? One of Stephen King’s early novels with a large rabid dog. There isn’t anything supernatural. It is just a large dog that’s gone crazy. I would still suggest that the book would be classed as ‘horror’. I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell mostly because how horrible the situations her main character would find herself in. The books might be thriller or crime thriller, but they were had far more ‘horror’ than many horror books out there. See also books by Tess Gerritsen, specifically The Surgeon.

Richard Laymon is always classed as a horror writer, even though it is very rare for anything in his books to be supernatural. I would class him in the Splatterpunk genre, along with Shaun Hutson, although some of Shaun’s books have plenty of supernatural elements. What is Splatterpunk? I watched one of the Hostel films and again one of the Saw films. I didn’t particularly enjoy them and haven’t watched any of the many many sequels. These type of films have been dubbed Torture Porn, which is fairly apt and possibly a way to describe Splatterpunk. However, not all Splatterpunk books are the same. I will read reviews and if the book is simply trying to be as gross and nasty as possible with very little reason or plot, I will give it a pass.

One final thought. Do you buy or read books solely based on Genre? I definitely look at the list of books in the Post Apocalypse and Dystopian genres, but I don’t for Horror or Splatterpunk.

I think what I’m trying to say, is that the boundaries between genres is very fluid, with plenty of crossover, and that I don’t believe in sticking to one genre, as anyone who has read some of my book reviews can attest.

Book Review: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a good end of the world novel by Stephen King, and with Sleeping Beauties you get two Kings for the price of one. Owen King, author in his own right, is also one of the sons of Stephen King and co-wrote this book.

The premise here is that once women fall asleep they don’t wake up, becoming wrapped in a cocoon. Slowly, over the course of a week, nearly all women eventually fall asleep, leaving men to fend for themselves. All except for one woman, who possibly killed a couple of ‘meth heads’ in a violent altercation and is now housed in Dooling’s women’s correction facility. The small Appalachian town of Dooling is where the story is set, and at the beginning of the book there is a long list of all of the main characters. One drawback of an e-book is that it is hard to refer to this. See also maps in fantasy books.

This being a Stephen King (and Owen) book, the whole idea of men being on their own is taken to the violent extreme. Also, if anyone tries to wake up a sleeping beauty, they turn incredibly aggressive. People soon realise that it isn’t wise to try to wake them. Anyway, where have the women gone, and who is the mysterious woman in the prison who appears to have supernatural abilities.

A lot can be gained from the overall story. In a world without women, how long would men survive and would the world be better or worse. Vice versa, in a world without men, how much better would it be for women. It made me think of the Icelandic Women’s strike of on 24th October 1975, where over 90% of women did absolutely no work for the whole day, paid or unpaid, in a effort to obtain equal wages and end unfair employment practices. I’m sure somewhere there is a longer version of the book which explores this idea in greater depth, and even though this isn’t a short book, it does focus more on the Stephen King-isms.

There are some nice ‘in’ jokes. The books the female prisoners mostly read are horror, and the three authors mentioned are Peter Straub, Clive Barker and Joe Hill. For those not in the know, Peter Straub is an old friend of Stephen King and they co-wrote The Talisman, Clive Barker is one of the best horror writers/creators ever having invented Hellraiser and Pin Head, and finally, Joe Hill is Stephen King’s other son.

Anyway, I enjoyed another roller coaster with ‘the master of horror’ and gave the book 4 stars. However, the reviews on Goodreads are very mixed, with an average score of ‘only’ 3.73.

Book Review: Richard Laymon

I’m slowly reviewing all of the books that I’ve read over the last six months, and I appear to be starting with a selection of horror novels. This time I am reviewing a pair of books from the American equivalent of James Herbert.

First up is In the Dark.

Jane is a quiet librarian in a quiet town where nothing exciting ever happens, which is fine with her. One day she finds a $50 bill with a note. The note is a clue to another book in the library. Inside the book is $100 and another clue. Both clues are signed by the Master of Games. Curiosity gets the better of Jane as she starts following the clues, each with a doubling of money. However, each clue slowly becomes more dangerous. How far will she play this ‘game’.

It’s an interesting premise, and towards the end there are a couple of good twists, although the very end wasn’t in the least bit surprising. As with most of Laymon’s books it isn’t the most believable, and the secondary characters are very two-dimensional. In its favour is the fact that the book was a bargain from Bygone Times, a large antique/second hand warehouse full of dozens of different stall holders near Wigan.

I gave the book 4 stars as it moved along nicely and was good fun in a Friday the 13th kind of way.

Next up we have Savage, which is a completely different book, again also by Richard Laymon, and again bought cheaply from Bygone Times.

The book starts off in Victorian London, 1888, and Jack the Ripper is on the loose. 15 year old Trevor has had to run an errand for his mother, but has been waylaid, robbed and beaten. As he is recovering his wits, there is a shout that there’s been a gruesome murder. Trevor runs, but a mob chases him, thinking that he was the one that dunnit. He breaks into a tiny house and hides. While hiding the real Jack the Ripper brings a woman back to the same house and kills her. Trevor confronts him and in the ensuing fight ends up biting Jack’s nose off, before being knocking unconscious. He wakes up on a boat with a young woman and her father, trapped, and moving towards the ocean.

With no chance of escape Trevor helps Jack to sail the boat to America. In sight of shore he escapes before Jack can kill him. From here the story gets even more unbelievable, as Trevor hooks up with a young woman and they set off in search of Jack, ending up in the wild west. They get separated and meet up numerous times, and characters pop up with no rhyme or reason, and then promptly disappear.

In truth the book was a mess. Maybe it sounded like a good idea, but I’m sorry to say that this was a dud from Mr Laymon. The average score on Goodreads is 3.92, but I gave it 2 stars, which I think is a fair score. One to avoid and a book which will be heading to a charity shop soon.

Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Another new horror novel, and like The Boatman’s Daughter, another author that was new to me.

Noemi receives a frantic letter from her cousin begging someone to save her from certain doom. Our adventurer travels across Mexico to a strange town and a strange house filled with a very strange family, the one that her cousin married into. Set in a post colonial era with a very gothic theme the story pulls you in. Why is the family so ‘odd’ for want of a better word. Why do they have their own physician, and why are they so desperate not to let Noemi find a local doctor to examine her cousin. Added to all, why is she having strange dreams and why is there a cemetery almost within the garden of the house.

I was never sure what was going on all the way through the book as it kept me guessing. The book is also unsettling rather than full on horror. More psychological rather than blood and gore, although there is a bet of that towards the end. The reviews are generally very good, although there are a fair number of 1 star reviews. I gave it a healthy 4 stars, which on reflection is about right. Not a perfect book and it does drag a little in places, but I enjoyed it all the way through.

Bonus Review: Sex Marry Kill by Todd Travis

A group of outcasts on a school trip become friends when they meet a very strange goth like man in a restaurant. The five school kids comprise the bullied, a slow learner, an overweight girl, an undersized nerd, a damaged girl and the school drug dealer.

To be fair I wasn’t expecting much from this shorter than average novel, as I downloaded it for free. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The strange goth invites our five ‘losers’ to go online a play a game, but they can only start the game when all five of them are together. This they do, and have to input something no one else knows about them, and then they can play the game. The game invites them to add peoples names and then obviously, sex, marry or kill. When everything they add to the game comes true they all start to freak out, but in different ways. One of them dies, and two of them try to hunt down the stranger, while the other two keep on playing the game with increasingly bad results.

Again, another book that I gave 4 stars to, and the reviews almost exactly mirror Mexican Gothic, in that there are plenty of 5 star rave reviews, and then more than a few 1 stars. I like it enough that Todd Travis is a horror writer that I will keep an eye out for in the future. Not that this book is ground breaking, it isn’t, but I found it a fun read with plenty of twists and turns, not all expected.

Book Review: Nobody True by James Herbert

I am a fan of James Herbert, ever since I read The Rats as a 15 or 16 year old. Probably too young to reading such material, but unlike films there aren’t age restrictions on books. That is a discussion for another day. Anyway, as I ‘follow’ James Herbert on Amazon they do on occasion have special offers, and Nobody True was available for limited time with 60% off.

Nobody True is the story of an advertising executive who is able to have Out of Body Experiences. However, on one of those excursions, he returns to his body to find out that he has been brutally murdered, and is unable to re-enter his body. He becomes a sort of wandering spirit, like a ghost, but not a ghost, as he meets ghosts later on. The only thing on his mind is to try and find out who and why he was murdered.

Good premise and I was looking forward to reading this. Unfortunately, the book takes far too long to get to the real story with far too much back story. A more ruthless editor could have easily have removed half of the first third of the book, and it would have been far better for it. Another disconcerting thing in the book was that sometimes modern ideas are mentioned, for example, mobile phones. However, it feels like some of these ideas have been added in by someone else. I might be wrong, although James was an old fashioned writer, writing all of his books in longhand. Also, his best works were written in the 70’s, before much of today’s technology.

Saying all that, once the story gets going there are some very neat ideas, especially when he enters the body of another recently slain victim and ‘walks’ her dead body to a police station. What I didn’t like was the ‘monster’, the serial killer on the loose who we suspect killed our main character. The serial killer is an old horror trope and one that most horror writers have moved on from. Clive Barker is an excellent example of where the real evil is carried out by humans, and the ‘monsters’ are often full of good.

I gave the book 2 stars, although that might have been a little harsh and possibly 3 would be more reflective of the good sections in the book.

Bonus Horror Review: Hull’s Landing by James Melzer

Hull’s Landing was a free short novel that I downloaded for my Kindle, and I was drawn to it by the name. I used to live in Hull, both as a teenager and then briefly in my late 40’s.

The story is based in the fictional town of Hull’s Landing, not Hull. A young girl has gone missing and has been missing for six months. The local police women is pulling her hair out trying to find what happened, but appears to be blocked from numerous people living in the town, including her boss the chief of police.

The book is quite short, as well as gory and nasty in places. Behind the scenes in the town, unspeakable evil is on the loose, as well as unspeakable good. As the bodies start pilling up, can the detective find the girl, and find out who kidnapped her and why.

We never really find out about the why, leaving it to your own imagination, but overall an interesting short novel. I gave it 4 stars, but on reflection that was probably a little generous and 3 would be more suitable.

Mini Book Review: The Circus has Landed by Clint Lowe

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.

Book Review: Night Show by Richard Laymon

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.

night show

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).

Book Review: The Rats by James Herbert

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.