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.
10. Spirit – Graham Masterton
Oh, Graham. Jeebus. I am a big fan of the Snow Queen fairytale, especially Kelly Link’s version “Travels with the Snow Queen” from Stranger Things Happen (no one will ever regret reading this short story collection, so, I unabashedly recommend it); and this was the second Graham “master of the vulgar description that gets stuck in your head and makes you basically forget most of the plot” Masterton book I’ve read, so I feel like I was prepared when I read this, but I was quite taken aback by the olive oil scene. Totally prepared for the frostbitten to a crisp man scene [insert Pillsbury Doughboy giggle], not the olive oil. Why was that even in there? Anyway, it was an interesting take on the Snow Queen, and the perils of regret and losing a child, and ghosts, and girls named Peggy and a primer on things that should not happen with cooking oils… Hard frown.
“They did what with olive oil?” Belvedere, perpetually too young to read Graham Masterton books. I wouldn’t even let his mother Murderface read a Graham Masterton book and she was a very advanced pig.
2. Walkers – Graham Masterton
Druids! Lunatics! Lunatics who think they are Druids because they harnessed the power of ley lines by reading about them while cooped up in an insane asylum versus a muffler shop owner – this book was not what I expected. I also did not expect it to be set between Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was wacky. And strangely vulgar in places. I now know things I did not want to know about fishnets. I can now visualize what it looks like to find a drowned two headed dog in a bag floating in a pool. Eek.
The main strength of this book can be found in the many, many descriptions of gross things and its full commitment to the wacky premise. The main weakness of this book is that the characters sound like British people imported into their setting when I’m supposed to believe they’re American. For example (and I’m currently reading another Masterton book set in the 1950s U.S. that bothers me for the same reasons) no one born in the U.S. has ever said “Hallo” (that’s just not our tone) to me in Wisconsin or referred to their trunk as a “boot.” A different kind of boots tend to take precedence in Wisconsin, especially during the freakishly cold, neverending winter that happened this year. Masterton is a British author and he has the same problem that was repeatedly brought up to me while finishing my MA in England – we use different words for things – it’s not a huge problem…but because of my experience, everything that didn’t ring true to U.S. custom stuck out like a pack of sore thumbs waiting to be scraped on concrete. I spent quite a few workshop sessions explaining what things like “twin beds” were or explaining how we can buy two liters but don’t regularly use the metric system and that hindered my ability to receive a critique that had something to do with my writing instead of my culture. Of course, I was there during the Iraq War and U.S.icans were not popular, and that put me at a disadvantage in more situations than I expected. I was also twenty-two, which seemed like a good secondary excuse for some people not to take me very seriously. One thing that I can take away from that experience and reading this is that translating cultural norms was not as important to the editors of this book as it was to my workshop and I, like many readers, would appreciate someone going the extra mile in terms of cultural research – I certainly would never confuse a biscuit with a cookie if I was writing a novel set in England and I’d put the spare tyre in the boot if need be. So, you can be as wacky with your premise as you like, but if your dialogue sounds wrong every time people meet, it’s going to hurt my ability to believe in homicidal maniacs having the ability to move through the walls and make that “Sssssssshhhhhhh” sound as described.
Danger Crumples, his own brand of Druish princess.