Tag Archives: 1980s horror

City News and Books on December 10, 1988

52. Deadly Sleep – John Applegate

The cover features a teddy bear in a bed brandishing a bloody knife in the air – awesome. The story features an overly worried middle aged man who can’t control himself when he sleeps. There’s also some business stuff – boring. Who hasn’t woken up as a dad in the suburbs, wondering if they killed someone the night before? It’s the stuff of a million excuses and a million insurance fraud murders. So garden variety.

It’s okay, Horace, you can snuggle back in free from fear, there’s no middle aged suburban dads around.

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Somebody’s watching that coffee and contemplation.

32. Stalkers – Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg, eds.

One of the nice things about libraries is that they sometimes make purchases from smaller publishers and those things stick around…waiting for their chance. Stalkers was published by Dark Harvest of Arlington Heights, IL in 1989.

It features authors of horror novels for the most part, several of which wrote books on my shelves that I haven’t yet read, like J.N. Williamson. Williamson’s story “Jezebel” was very moralistic but also captured the feeling of being watched when you’re really not doing anything worth watching as a lady very well.

Pickles was constantly doing something worth watching. Here she is, looking alert.

Some I forgot about, like John Coyne (The Legacy aka that book/movie poster with the cat head sticking out of the green, zombie looking hand that scared and intrigued me as a child). Coyne’s story “Flight” was one of the weirder ones. A man takes off with his child when he’s totally not supposed to and ends up in a cabin with a paranoid old coot and it gets very bizarre from there. Features ye olde proverbial “They.”

Some I hadn’t heard of, like Michael Seidman, the editorial director of Zebra…a publisher that probably would have published me back in the day and stuck lots of weirdo skeletons on my covers. Oh, to go back in time. Seidman’s “What Chelsea Said” was a creepy little urban nightmare. Bumbutt.

Edward D. Hoch, “The Stalker of Souls” was an academic mystery. I haven’t read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but I got that vibe from it nonetheless. The reveal was a little tiresome, but the atmosphere leading up to it was great and very on theme.

Belvedere raises his head while being accused of nefarious plans by Pickles. Again. She’s the guinea pig Sherlock. Sort of. Not really. She’s far too cute and not nearly addicted to heroin enough to be Sherlocky.

The story that stuck with me the most has its own introduction, an oddity for short story collections, usually there’s just a short paragraph introing the author (if that, and sometimes the contributor bios are in the back). The introduction discusses how long Dean Koontz had the idea and other situations where the story didn’t work out to be published and it’s a nice insight. I’ve read one Dean Koontz book, The Funhouse, it was written under a different name and it was weird but didn’t make me want to dig in to the rest of his catalog. I think my main turn off, as usual, is the font they use for his name. It doesn’t appeal to me.

Anyway, now I’m a little more intrigued. I will at least always look for his stories in more of these weird little horror story anthologies because “Trapped” played right into my worst stalking fears and also hit several areas of my interest – isolated homes, mad science corporate bullshit gone awry, smart heroines who don’t freak out, a hero very much like Chief Hopper… But as I was saying, those worst stalking fears – RATS. Genetically engineered rats who are even smarter than rats already are. Also bigger. And they cut off your phone while staring at you with their beady little eyes. And they thought about the car. And they’re huge and white with red eyes. And of course there was a fucking illustration for that story. NO. I try not to show fear around real rats because I appreciate how smart they are, but, No. Also, rats are not afraid of people. They like people.

Pickles hides from smart rats in her hay. According to a 1921 book about pets I have, rats hate guinea pigs, so she doesn’t really need to.

 

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“Strong as I am!”

16. Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

I’ll just start by saying I love Manhunter. It’s super 80s, Tom Noonan is awesome in it (“Do you see?”), Brian Cox does a non-camp and actually intimidating (pre-Mads, that is) Lecter, William Petersen is an angsty but indelicate Will Graham, and there are so many iconic moments. It looks great, it sounds great, it’s just one of my favorite movies. After 2017’s plethora of shit, I sincerely hope that I will not soon find out that making this film was a nightmare of sexual harassment. It probably was. Nothing gold can stay.

Anyway…although I love Manhunter for all its 80s-ness, it did sort of leave quite a few things out that I now know after reading Red Dragon. Red Dragon is a great book.

And I must say, the William Blake print-eating scene bothered me infinitely in the version with Ralph Fiennes. I wanted that archivist to wake up and punch him in his face repeatedly. You are not supposed to eat the priceless pieces of printmaking! Fuck your becoming – you leave that Blake print alone! Bad serial killer. Bad. Very bad. (They’re fictional, which allows me to be mostly bothered by the librariany parts. That print is real. And thankfully uneaten. Don’t hurt the library materials. No touching.) It also bothered me in the Hannibal TV show, which I also love. But I agree with all the people who said Dolarhyde was too attractive and not very menacing in the show. Having Rutina Wesley as Reba was really good though, she was great.

This picture of Finny stretching reminds me of Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde. SO much stretching. This is not Finny’s becoming.

 

Here’s Finny’s parody of the Hannibal (I mean Finnibal) TV show’s wendigo, or, *cough* Findigo. Available on stuff and things – along with the other works I’ve uploaded this Finnybruary, Samurai Finny and Raspberry Finny! Also, I did love the swapping of Dr. Chilton for Lounds on the show and the whole “You put your hand on my shoulder like a pet!” thing. Nice work. Holy shit.

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“We had the best time at your party”

22. Scare Care – Graham Masterton, ed.

Graham Masterton, master of the vulgar description, is responsible for this short story collection. He established the “Scare Care Trust, a charity set up to fund organizations that help abused and endangered children” get access to vulgar descriptions. Not really. It’s a nice thing from the 1980s. I didn’t research whether or not the trust is still in operation because I am apparently heartless when it comes to endangered 1980s children. Sorry. I watched several of those farm accident videos. Desensitized. Never rest!

Baby Finny also doesn’t care about endangered 1980s children. He is not sorry. He didn’t even watch Apaches (Thank you, Grady Hendrix, for introducing me to Apaches, my mom has the silverware they’re setting the table for the “party” with).

Anyway, all the stories were donated and I shan’t go in to all 38 of them, but here are some of the ones that struck me in particular.

Kit Reed – “Mommy” – This story is based around the question: “Where did the hundred pounds she lost go?” Kit Reed is one author I will always read. She really is a master of feminist horror. Also, she validates many of my lifestyle choices as non-horrific, despite what others might say.

James Robert Smith – “Things Not Seen” – One of the more affecting stories, super short, super impact. “Do you think they’ll like Sonny?”

Ozma likes Baby Finny. She likes not-baby Finny now too.

James Herbert – “Breakfast” – Excellent, another short punch about a woman and her family in the post-apocalypse. Images that really get into your head. Very sticky.

C. Dean Anderson – “Night Watch” – This begins with a killer squirrel. We like that around here .

Jeff Gelb – “Family Man” – A nice little take about accidentally getting a nice ghost family when you buy a new house.

Baby Finny wants a ghost family. He’s not getting one.

Gile Gordon – “A Towpath Tale” – This was one of the more disturbing things I’ve read about a man and his bitch.

Brian Lumley – “David’s Worm” – Don’t let kids go into the garbage at your lab or they’ll become one with an amorphous blob they grew. He named it “Planny.” You can’t give things names or they’ll never go away. Think of Mr. Peppy on Futurama and always remember that lesson from Hermes.

Graham Masterton – “Changeling” – This reminded me of that Angel episode that introduced me to VAST. Gender-swapping as STD is a bit more disturbing, also, now I realize that It Follows owes a heavy debt to Angel’s first season.

Non-baby Finny is still not sorry. But he is interested in more horror-focused short story collections from the 1980s.

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“Is this heaven?”

44. Blood Farm – Sam Siciliano

The cover of this 1988 horror trade paperback is awesome. The title is perfect for an “Iowa Gothic” as it is labeled. That is where the awesome ends, unfortunately.

There are some strong images, the hippie driving the hearse is an amiable fellow, the damsel in distress is damsely and very 70s with the hitchhiking and such, and the highways covered in snow are aptly described. I also appreciated the very 1970s aesthetic of the apartment interior description… It falls apart in terms of the horror. It’s brutally obvious and gets rapey and well, the setting basically means nothing (kind of like the extremely cold Southern Gothic I read earlier this year, Who Made Stevie Crye? [sub-disclosure, I remembered the title as “What Makes Stevie Crye?” and that’s probably because a lot of the book made me want to cry(e)]) and that disappointed me a lot because I’m Iowan. There’s lots of Gothic to extract from the Iowa winter landscape and farms. I’ve seen some desolation, perhaps it is up to me to properly “Iowa Gothic.” To be fair, the one time I tried clove cigarettes and didn’t inhale seems like a more apt description of “Iowa Gothic” for me, which doesn’t bode well for the genre.

Danger Crumples and Horace engage in a tense scene from their Guinea Pig Gothic drama where they are friends and part of the same long lasting herd, but sometimes Danger is compelled by his dementia to be not friends and Horace wants the will re-written so he can inherit the unholy legacy of having as many little toys as Danger Crumples. It’s a real page turner. A flip book.

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Don’t go in the basement.

11. The Ridge – Lisa W. Cantrell

“There’s something evil underneath the house” is the theme of both Lisa W. Cantrell books I’ve read. The third one I have, which attracted me entirely because of the evil pumpkin gnawing on a banister on the cover, is also about something evil underneath a house, well, a “manse.” This time the house is a monastery for black magic monks. The black magic entities do not like this young girl named Sara who has an assassin for a father, who now must take care of her since the rest of the family died in the black magic accident; which makes it sound like maybe we’ve got a case of The Professional meets Amityville here- it’s more like Grosse Pointe Blank meets Ghoulies, but, worse than that would actually turn out. This assassin has less than half the charisma of John Cusack, for starters, I don’t care how many braided belts he has.

Thaddeus, awaiting anything actually scary happening in The Ridge under a pillow. He’s got a long wait. Through all the pages. All of them!

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“I learned it by watching YOU!”

9. Feast – Graham Masterton

Having spent a very, very, very small fraction of my childhood inside restaurants I didn’t like with my father, I can relate to some elements of Feast. I never stormed off to speak to a mysterious dwarf when he would ask me about school even though I only ever saw him over Fourth of July weekend, but I certainly rolled my eyes super hard and reminded myself I’d be going home to my own things soon enough. Being able to relate to any aspect of Feast probably seems terrible if you’ve read the book, but, whatever. It’s probably better that I didn’t get kidnap-inducted into a flesh-eating cult during one of those Fourth of July weekends. It’s not like I was doing anything fun instead. Mostly I was sneezing. Stupid summer.

I could also relate to seeing one’s father as selfishly involved in their own shit instead of interested in me, so, thanks for all the non-vulgar relatability for once, Graham. Thanks. Charles McLean, restaurant critic, and his son Martin are using their quality time as a vehicle for Charles to do work and Martin to be bored while eating in Connecticut. Charles finds out about and begins trying to get an invitation to a super underground restaurant that turns out to be a bit of a front…for a cannibal cult. A self-cannibalizing cult. See, eating yourself prepares you for meeting God, because cult-logic is the most solid kind.

It must be said that Feast was not as gross as I expected it to be. And I expected a lot because all the other Graham Masterton books I’ve read have at least one specifically disgusting or vulgar scene that just sticks in my head and will not leave (olive oil, dog in a pool, fishnets *shudder*); but Feast didn’t have one of those for me. Guess I got too caught up in the relatively ancient hype this time.

Sure, Horace will join your cult. After he finishes napping on his froggy. You're not his real dad.

Sure, Horace will join your cult. After he finishes napping on his froggy. You’re not his real dad.

 

 

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There are so many things to make us cry, or even crye, nowadays.

1. Who Made Stevie Crye? – Michael Bishop

Odd title + residence in a locked case of the library = I’m interested. In order to get to the area of the library where this book is held, you have to ask for an item (Pfft, normal patrons), or work there and have the ability to sign out a key, take the elevator up past several mezzanine floors, then unlock a door that’s just a little bit too short for your average bear with a security grating for a window. The secretive spaces of libraries are my favorites- you never know what all is in them and if you haven’t committed yourself to the work in some way, you’ll never get to see the weird stuff, or the bound volumes of Playgirl. Yes, academic libraries are hiding their porn from you, patrons; we just keep it for posterity, do not want to let it get it all sticky, and we library staff only use it for the articles. Literally. There’s this Chris Burden (you may know him as the performance artist that crucified himself on a VW Bug and let someone shoot him in a gallery, that’s how I know him) article in a 1970s issue of Playgirl that actually gets asked for a lot. It’s a pretty interesting interview and a bit of a letdown for all the staff in my department who were wondering if we were actually being asked to scan some guy’s (Chris Burden not the household name I figured someone who nailed themselves to a Bug would be) pictures from a skin mag – not so much.

What I gleaned from skimming through Who Made Stevie Crye? (no dust jacket, academic library) the beginning and intermittent illustrations was that there’s a monkey involved, someone loses all their flesh, and there’s what appeared to be a possessed typewriter in the story. It also said “A Novel of the American South” on the title page and any long time readers, first time callers know that I lived in the South and I miss many parts of it.  I figured it was horror, and it was published in 1984, I also love 1980s horror so it seemed like I might have found a diamond in the rough, as they say.

Well, that whole “set in the South” thing kept popping into my head as I read about how cold it was and the repeated turning on of the heater in Stevie’s writing room. It’s set in Georgia, but in winter, which is something that could have been easily changed and doesn’t truly contribute to the plot beyond being confusing. The humidity makes people crazy down there, which is helpful when you’re writing a horror story; a thick atmosphere is a tense atmosphere… It is just as easy to turn on a space heater in Wisconsin (where the publisher is, and the reason why this book was behind a locked door) and have the same level of haunted typewriter and monkey involvement and not make me wonder why you set the story in the South.

What Made Stevie Crye? also reminded me of one of my least favorite things about female main characters written by dudes, they are hysterical. A lot. Stevie super needs to get some writing done (I do believe in the 1980s there’s a shred of a chance one could support two children with a freelance writing career.) and her typewriter shits the bed and she doesn’t want to pay its actual manufacturer to fix it. It’s so fun reading about customer service calls. The true horror was making me read about how much it costs to fix an electric typewriter. So, of course, she ends up taking the typewriter to some nutball genius who has a pet monkey he named Sucrets (Seriously? Somebody’s shitty at pet names and that person is Michael Bishop.) and will NOT STOP VISITING after he “fixes” her typewriter. Stevie freaks out about her kids, at her kids, about the monkey, about the monkey’s finger-blood sucking habit (Ew.), about her dreams (The one with the man body with a monkey head is worth freaking out about, also the incest one, ew.), about her typewriter becoming sentient and teleplaying her dreams, about visitors, about the heater, about the stereotypical magical fortunetelling woman she finds to help her (The fortune teller has a manual typewriter. Typewriter fight! Note, typewriter fighting is way less interesting than it sounds…at least in this book.), about her book proposal, and basically betrays the majority of the sense of competency I believe a real woman would have so she can freak out. She just didn’t ring true to me and so I didn’t really care why she was so upset about having a monkey in her house, eating an egg sandwich. The horror! Plus the “reasoning” behind the whole enchanted typewriter thing sucked and even Stevie seemed to have a sedated reaction to it, most realistic thing she did.

I did a little research and found that this was supposed to be one of those “unexpectedly funny” books, but, it really didn’t work for me. I enjoy oddness for its own sake, I’m a fan of both Splatterpunk anthologies I’ve read and they’re a great example of truly bizarre things that can elicit a smirk. Maybe it would be funnier if the setting made sense and the main character seemed a tad realistic before things started making her go off the rails. Horror and comedy do have a lot in common. Or if they gave the monkey a mint julep instead of a fondness for Sucrets and finger-blood; actually, I believe that in the South, Capuchins drink a sweating glass of sweet tea before they invade your home and tear up your daughter’s stuffed animals and unzip their monkey skins to reveal their tiny little man bodies. Afterwards they fan themselves on your porch swing.

Finny just realized he left his space heater on...but he lives in Wisconsin...and it's still winter...so that's pretty normal beyond the improbability of me letting my guinea pigs manage their own space heaters. He also left his typewriter on...

Finny just realized he left his space heater on…but he lives in Wisconsin…and it’s still winter…so that’s pretty normal beyond the improbability of me letting my guinea pigs manage their own space heaters. He also left his typewriter on…

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Class of 1984 might be our best case scenario soon.

26. Schoolhouse – Lee Duigon

1988, a time when horror paperbacks were plentiful and there were more than enough skeletons on covers to scare all the children in line at the grocery store. Schoolhouse has a skeleton teacher (with bun and pointer, but no shoes, I feel like she could’ve been wearing shoes) with both an apple and another skull on her desk. Another skull on her desk! And the background isn’t just black, there’s a chalkboard and a spider web and everything. Pinnacle getting their money’s worth out of the cover artist. It’s a full painting. There are many parts of me that wish publishing still allowed for this style of cover and for a proliferation of bizarre horror novels.
Schoolhouse’s staying power is in its weirdness. If one went to public school, one generally could be led to believe that something weird is going on…especially in the 1980s, when the something weird didn’t have to be related to state budget cuts and elected officials painting teachers as the enemy for wanting proper resources because public schools’ mission is give EVERY student an education, and they don’t actually leave any children out.  Perhaps a digression, but things were different then and if your teacher was an enemy, it was probably because they were possessed by an alien beast creature sliming its way to the surface (now those are just lots of repugnant elected officials, possessed by somebody else’s money). Schoolhouse very much treads the line between horror and science fiction and who knew that would be a preview of our educational system today – vouchers and creationist textbooks, anyone? Scary stuff.

Danger Crumples and Ozymandias have very different investigative styles. Danger leaves no pillow un-turned, Ozy knows H.P. Lovecraft-style slimy beasts don't hide under pillows.

Danger Crumples and Ozymandias have very different investigative styles. Danger leaves no pillow un-turned, Ozy knows H.P. Lovecraft-style slimy beasts don’t hide under pillows.

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