Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Carnival by William W. Johnstone

by William W. Johnstone
1989 Zebra Books

In the 50s some rich kids rape some girls and carnies get blamed.  The town sets the carnival on fire and covers it up.  The dead carnies make a deal with Satan to return for revenge.  The townfolk either turn evil or mindless, ala the Devil series.

The few who maintain their sanity try to stop the carnival's plan to have the evil townspeople kill each other.  They do this by killing the townspeople.  They didn't really think this one through.

For once, Johnstone actually sticks to his gimmick, and fully half of the story takes place in the carnival as the townsfolk alternate between Stepford Wives banality and crazed cannibalism.  An avenging revenant rises from the grave with the truck his was buried in, and then proceeds to have pages of discussion with law enforcement about what will happen if the cross an invisible barrier surrounding the carnival.  Chills!

Johnstone manages to have a little fun here without getting too bogged down in cosmic rules.  His last book of the 80s.  If you're already sick of Johnstone, now's a good time to hop off.

Available in Kindle from Amazon

Click here for a sample

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Frankenstein's Tower

Frankenstein's Tower
by Jean-Claude Carriere as Benoit Becker
originally 1957 Fleuve Noir
English translation 2016 Grey Tiger

Jean-Claude Carriere is a respected screenwriter and collaborator with Luis Bunel.  He also wrote a series of mediocre Frankenstein continuations.

Frankenstein's Tower is set in 1875.  A disgraced mesmerist turned hobo creeper named Vrollo reanimates and controls Frankenstein' Monster, called Gouroull here.  Gouroll snaps a couple necks and kidnaps the fair maiden Helen.  The creature overcomes Vrollo's influence and kills him, then moves on to menacing Helen.

The townsfolk can't get in the castle where Gourollo is holed up, so they enlist the aid of a Hindu snake charmer to send an army of poisonous snakes in after them.  Sure.

Helen escapes, Gourollo escapes, and we're left with almost 30 pages of epilogue and afterword of a 158 page book.  I wouldn't mind the short page length if it was filled with more monster and less French talkiness.  And if I hadn't paid as much as I had - these are really more suitable for $1.99 ebooks than $11 paperbacks.

I appreciate Frankenstein's monster being evil (or at least amoral) and murderous, as opposed to the sympathetic approach usually given in the 20th Century, but at least in this installment he doesn't get a lot of page time.  This version suffers from either a poor, direct translation, or the fact that the French use way too many words.  Read Donald Glut for a better version of the same concept.

Overpriced paperback from Amazon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cat's Eye by William W. Johnstone

Cat's Eye
by William W. Johnstone
Zebra Books 1989

A sequel to Cat's Cradle, this installment mostly abandons the original premise and brings the story in line with his other Devil books.

A quick recap of that series (Devil's Kiss, Heart, Touch, Cat, Laughter) - Satan periodically picks a random American town and seduces almost all of its inhabitants.  The teenagers start being rude to the elderly, talking back to their parents, having orgies, killing babies, etc.  Then Beasts (stripped down werewolves) and the Undead (stripped down vampires) roam the town, and a hero ordained by God and a small handful of pure souls fight back with machine guns and grenades to a convoluted finish.

We start off with a bodyguard (the son of the hero in the first book, who evidently went through a lot in three years) being hired to protect his author daughter by a rich developer.  Unexpectedly, the rich guy is a conservationist, which is a good thing here.  And the town Sheriff is corrupt and worthless, also a big switch for Johnstone.

Johnstone does not work from an outline, and it shows here.  It shows real bad.  We start off with some bad slapstick.  Animated corpse parts kick people in the butt like an Army of Darkness schtick, and Satan himself catcalls characters with a disembodied voice.

The incoherence becomes an asset as Johnstone picks up steam.  Satan frees some prisoners who go on a raping spree.  Their rape victims become lizard women.  At some point Johnstone tries to shoehorn in a lot of the Satanic Panic nonsense floating around at the time.  There are over 100,000 satanic covens in America, about five times more than Catholic churches.  Almost the entire town is part of a coven, but they hide their heavy metal posters when the police get a search warrant.  It's not really a conspiracy anymore if 90% of the town is part of it.

Parenting advice: If your child listens to hard rock music, kill them and burn the corpse.

The bodyguard and few remaining non-Satanists mow down coven members, living dead, flesh eating maggots, etc, with a cache of grenades and flame throwers, the end.  This is the best book ever.

There is no cat baby.

Available in Kindle from Amazon

Click here to read a sample

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dew Claws by Stephen Gresham

Dew Claws
by Stephen Gresham
1986 Zebra Books

Yep, this one.  I knew going in the story didn't match the cover (although there is a lot of banjo), that the story was more "quiet horror", but I'd go one further and say this isn't a horror novel at all.  More folksy southern fantasy.  Not that it's a bad thing - the story is well written and moves along nicely, but it's completely mispackaged.

Johnny Ray is a swamp boy who is taken up by the owners of a day care after his family disappeared in the swamp, killed by dew claws, some kind of water spirit elemental.  Johnny Ray is possessed by the spirit of the dew claws and spends the book visiting various folk healers: a swamp doctor, swamp witches, snake handlers, and Indian shaman.

There's a good sense of menace but nothing resembling scares, and nobody is more than scratched the whole book.

Used paperback from Amazon

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The NBC Saturday Morning Preview Revue 1974

There's a hierarchy of terrible television.  The seventies.  Kid's live action shows.  Specials.  So here's a special for live action TV in the 70s, staring all your favorite nightmares from Sid and Marty Krofft.

Supposedly, by the Pink Lady and Jeff era, the Kroffts were being horrible on purpose.  I can believe it here.  Every frame is more terrifying than the last.  HR Pufnstuf not terrifying enough?  How about marionettes.  Elvis Jimmy Osmond dancing with pimps not weird enough for you?  Bring in the clowns!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Killsquad 2: Mission Revenge by Frank Garrett

Killsquad 2: Mission Revenge
by Frank Garrett (Dan Schmidt)
1986 Avon

"These folks ain't right, Sarge.  Or I'd be gettin' a little chubby right now."

The Killsquad is a Deadly Dozen style strike force - let's meet the team:
John "Hangman" Smith - the leader.
Leroy "Lightning Bomber" Walker - ex-boxer convicted of murder.
Rollo "Icepick" Barnes - Harlem pimp and hit-man.
Tommy Williams - hillbilly bank robber.
Mac White - Bigot with a heart of gold, too mean for the KKK.
James Jackson - Fisherman and smuggler, framed for the murder of FBI agents.
Lucien Schnell - insane, serial killing, Nazi mercenary, in the brig this installment for attempting to desert in the first book.

The Preacher, Eli St. Judas, is on a mission to remove sinners from the Earth, starting with a shooting and firebomb spree by his followers on Times Square, the Preacher fapping away as he watches.  He's enlisted the aid of a team of mercenaries, who have their own agenda.

Probably the thinnest plot of any Men's Adventure book I've read, and that's saying something.  Some training, then off to raid the Preacher's orgy compound to see what they're up to.  They leave the Preacher alive for some reason when they discover the plot to kidnap Russian diplomats.  They run to foil the kidnapping, then run back for another raid on the Preacher's base.

Action scenes like midwest cooking - not that great, but there's a lot of it.  Well written but way too quick - this may be the first book that I wished was longer than it's 167 pages.

Used paperback from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sandman by William W. Johnstone

by William W. Johnstone
1988 Zebra Books

"What the hell!  Was this county filled with mysterious monsters?"

An evil kid meets evil ghost Jamaicans and gets the power to create blood-filled sand people.  The sand can dig it's way through people's pores and turn them into sand people who are also satanists.  The sand people eat people-people, stuffing roped intestines into their mouths.

That is, until Johnstone gets bored with it.  "The sand people are merely a distraction."  The kid influences others around him to do evil and we've got yet another Devil book, only on a smaller scale.  His sister gets another It inspired kid-power gang together and we get discussion of cosmic rules, this time in dialect.

"Ma mon, you too little to be speakin' to me lak dat.  I'm a big black mons.  You just a little white boy."

Unfocused, small scale, and phoned-in.

Available for Kindle from Amazon

Click here for a sample