Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Jack-in-the-Box by William Johnstone

by William Johnstone
1986, Zebra Books

Jack-In-The-Box centers around nine-year-old Nora and is part Omen knock off (666 birthmark, ability to cause accidents around her), part Exorcist rip-off (she does the owl imitation three times and spits out slime twice), and all Johnstone.

Nora's father Phillip and brother Phil mistrust young Nora, but her mother Jeanne protects her, though she has secrets of her own.  Phillip is compelled to buy Nora an evil Jack-in-the-Box which plays the funeral march and has human teeth.  Like the rockinghorse in Rockinghorse, it doesn't do much more than show up on the cover.

The box was used by a Nazi officer in the concentration camp, though it's evil is more satanic than Naziish.  Phillip learns that his daughter is either possessed or born pure evil, and works with a child psychologist and priest to try an exorcise her.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Valhalla

It's probably unfair to constantly accuse other theme parks of ripping off Disney.  I'm sure there were a lot of Nordic themed flume rides with a backwards section before Maelstrom.  Again, I probably prefer this one.  Hard to see most of the ride in the video, but there's much more of a sense of water than Maelstrom - aside from the oil rig scene, you hardly felt like you were in a boat.  And 100% less Olaf.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


by William W. Johnstone
Zebra, 1986

"Some little voice tells me my formerly liberal husband has now changed into a hardline conservative"

A New York lawyer and his family spend the summer in the mysterious Georgia plantation mansion he has inherited.  We've got a creepy caretaker, strange going ons in the woods, and a creepy wooden rockinghorse.  There's only one road in and out of town, the townsfolk have been acting strangely, and there's word of devil worshiping and, yeah, this is starting to look more like another Devil series installment.

This is what happens when you don't plot things - your haunted house story starts becoming like every other book you write.  The lawyer gets knocked unconscious and tattooed with a rockinghorse.  The family gets attacked and the daughter almost raped.  But, hey, we've got the whole summer, let's stick around and see what happens.

There's some kind of coven nearby, some bigfoot creatures called Rejects, and ghost children.  How are we going to tie all this together?  How about a siege by Satanic cultists?  But first, let's add twenty more characters.

The coven turn out to be friendly college professors.  A state trooper with his psychic wife join up, and for good measure let's have two entire families come to visit.  An international devil cult called the Brotherhood are interested in the house.  They want to perform a ceremony with the lawyer and the psychic and they needed other people to be there - not too well spelled out.  Luckily we have a psychic lady, and now all the kids are psychic, so they just "know" stuff.  My favorite Johnstone device.

There's like fifty people in the house now - I thought Johnstone was stocking the plot with victims, but I think only like one dies.  I suspect the real purpose is so he could have people explain the same things to each other to fill word count.  It's like this old chestnut...

...except instead of saying "Doctor", there's two pages of a character not believing a supernatural phenomena and gradually coming to accept it.

Just when the book had me skimming through page upon page of the same Rockinghorse being chopped up and burned for the fourth time, the Brotherhood attacks!  Dozens of cultist set up a perimeter and start torturing off-page - sorry, sodomy fans, only one off-page sodomy this time around, just barely enough to fill Johnstone's sodomy quota.

To even the score, God disables electricity and firearms.  Combustion engines still work, include CHAINSAWS BABY!  The lawyer spins one around like he's in a Peter Jackson movie and makes everything worthwhile.

Johnstone then proceeds to piss this goodwill down his leg and completely ruins the pace by having a lengthy sequence of the State Police divining that something is going down at the mansion because some officers have called in sick.  The cops find all the residents in the town asleep and their weapons useless, but just to make sure they try firing them about a dozen times.  This unnecessary insertion of a couple extra cops at the end is repeated later in Sweet Dreams.

The twelve year old that the text has been perving on the whole book gets raped and then forgives the floating corpse of the rapist.  This causes the rockinghorse to hide in the attic and the remaining Brotherhood members to run into the woods to be slaughtered by bigfeet off-page.  The kids set fire to the house, which for some reason they couldn't do before, the end.

Well,almost the end.  A couple more chapters of the Governor and State Police scratching their heads and comically being befuddled.  But it was all worth it for the CHAINSAW!

Available in Kindle from Amazon.

Click here for a sample.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Alice's Wonderland

Same layout as the Disney one, but I like this one better, as the design seems based more on the original book illustrations.  The soundtrack, weirdly, seems to be Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which does sound a bit like Painting the Roses Red.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - The New, Branded Stuff

Blackpool follows the international trend of taking the kiddie-ride area and randomly assigning branded names from whoever they have a licensing agreement with, in this case Nickelodeon.  The only one of worth is Dora, because it's a boat ride.

There's also a Wallace and Gromit dark ride - never could get into them