content by

Grady Hendrix

Fiction and Excerpts [2]

Fiction and Excerpts [2]

Horrorstör (Excerpt)

|| Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking. To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they'll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

Bringing an Uzi to a Vampire Fight: Nightblood

Welcome to Freaky Fridays where paperbacks are still on the racks and they’re full of sexy vampires and the even sexier men in leather trench coats who kill them.

If you thought ‘Salem’s Lot needed more automatic weapons, then T. Chris Martindale’s Nightblood is for you. In the Seventies and Eighties the rugged, emotionally repressed tough guy who was equally comfortable with both guns and lovemaking was the leading man of choice. The hottest ticket in male hunkdom was the Vietnam vet because he’d seen such things that he was basically Rutger Hauer at the end of Blade Runner only he didn’t dye his hair. But after Anne Rice’s slim-hipped, glam vampires took over horror in the mid-Eighties they provided horror writers with a template from which all future leading men would be forged, giving rise to a legion of edgy male leads who were conflicted, tormented about their motivations and, when they confronted their nemesis, were subjected to a speech about how they’re both the same underneath the skin.

Martindale saw that trend and said, “Oh, hell no.” He took Anne Rice’s sensitive vampires and machine gunned them into kibble. He set them on fire. He stuck bombs down their pants. His book’s hero? A Vietnam vet dedicated to avenging evil, wearing a trench coat and toting an uzi. A man as reliable as a divorced dad, roaming the country, parking outside lovers lanes and spying on them from his creeper van to, erm, make sure no vampires were about. Or anything. Instead of doubting himself, he was sure of his abilities to kick ass. Instead of worrying about whether gazing into the abyss would turn him into an abyss too, he worried about making pipe bombs. Instead of carrying baggage, he carried an uzi. Ladies, put on your running shoes because this stud is single!

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The Horror of Fitness Fads: The Glow

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, that magical day of the week when we put on our light blue Adidas track suits and go jogging! Then we come back home, pour a big glass of grapefruit juice and read a crunky old paperback from the Eighties.

In 1963, a small pamphlet was published in Oregon called The Jogger’s Manual. Sponsored by the National Bank of Portland and the Oregon Heart Foundation it told readers how to give this crazy new sport a whirl:

“Start with a short distance then increase as you improve. Jog until you are puffing, then walk until your breathing is normal again. Repeat until you have covered a mile or two, or three. Jogging…can be done ‘anywhere’ and by ‘anyone’ — male or female.”

With those words, a boom was born. In the Seventies, everyone jogged. Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running sold over a million copies. Magazines like Runner’s World, Running, The Runner, and Running Times appeared. President Jimmy Carter put on unflattering workout shorts and jogged, even though he wasn’t very good at it. During the Seventies, 25 million Americans took up jogging. Did you really think no one would write a horror novel about it?

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Drug Lords and Were-Beasts: Nightlife

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, that day of the week when you take off your business casual, put on some stonewashed jeans, a white blazer, an electric blue silk shirt, and a pair of Vuarnets. You pour yourself a big glass of tequila, put on “Smuggler’s Blues”, and do a lot of cocaine while reading an out-of-print paperback from the Eighties. Or, hey, even the Nineties. We’re not judging.

At the end of the Seventies and Eighties horror boom, Dell tasked editor Jeanne Cavelos with launching a paperback originals line. And so, in the early Nineties, Cavelos launched the Abyss line ,which set a high water mark for groundbreaking horror fiction from authors as diverse as Melanie Tem, Michael Blumlein, Kathe Koja, and Poppy Z. Brite. But for every experimental, avant garde novel like X,Y they published, they also published some jaw-dropping, head-scratching slabs of weirdness like The Orpheus Processa book so weird and broken that you can only goggle at it in awe.

Nightlife is no Orpheus Process (what is?) because it’s actually a lot of fun and doesn’t make your eyeballs spin around in opposite directions when you try to read it. But still…

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Nazi Super Babies: Psychic Spawn

Welcome to Freaky Friday, the day of the week when we bring you wisdom right out of old paperbacks. Most of that wisdom involves how you should avoid children at all times.

Every child kills in its own unique way, each one a special snowflake of homicide. If you’re in The Children, you are a child’s body with Howard Hughes’s brain transplanted into it and you show up at reporters’ front doors in your private school uniform asking for autographs, then when they bend over to write it you pull out a silenced pistol and blow their brains out. If you’re the young, Jesus-addled child in Mama’s Little Girl, you hate brains, too, but you use a hammer to get at them. If you’re an army of children controlled by an evil psychic child in Piper you wait until Halloween and then you and your friends go on a kill-as-kill-can rampage that sees thousands die at your tiny hands.

And if you are Psychic Spawn, well, you’re going to kill psychically. Also, you’re a Nazi.

[As usual, the Nazis are to blame for everything.]

Man vs Militarized Nature: Killer

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet serving up the oldest and mustiest forgotten paperbacks from the Seventies and Eighties for your dining pleasure.

Right now, we’re in the middle of calls for a brand new build-up in American military force, and we’re also confronting the reality of the asymmetrical battlefields of the future. New challenges require new military tactics and that often requires new weapons, but please let me state now, categorically and unequivocally, that the Pentagon should never develop weapons that include: giant spiders, doorways to other dimensions, evil rattlesnakes, spray-on marijuana, anti-Vietnamese piranhagenetically-engineered barracuda, robot killer sharks, shark-octopus hybrids, human-shark hybrids, or dinosaur-shark hybrids. Not even one dollar should be allocated to fund even the most preliminary research in those fields.

The entire film and publishing industry have spent decades warning us about the dangers of laser sharks and hyper-intelligent stingrays, but every time you turn around yet another military experiment has escaped back into the ocean where it eats its weight in happy-go-lucky swimmers on a daily basis. In case we missed the point, Killer warns us of the dangers in doing something even as seemingly innocent and foolproof as training a giant killer whale to become a super-smart, ultraviolent, weaponized sushi platter. Trust me, even this can go wrong.

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Supernatural Urban Decay: Night Train

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, the day of the week we dive down deep into the depths of out-of-print paperbacks and emerge with a rose between our teeth.

The Seventies and Eighties weren’t a good look for any American city. All you have to do for proof is look to the incredible music coming out of New York and LA (hip hop, disco, New Wave, punk, glam metal), the amazing art (Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Karen Finley), and the groundbreaking theater (Robert Wilson, Ridiculous Theater, A Chorus Line)—cities capable of inspiring such an avalanche of talent must be hell on earth. Thanks to stupid urban planning decisions, crack cocaine, Reagan-era policies, and general economic malaise, every city sucked during these two decades. But the one that sucked the longest and hardest was New York City. Have you seen Taxi Driver?

So what did horror paperback writers do to cope with the urban hellscape in which they were living? They did what they’d always done: they wrote novels about monsters eating people’s faces. Come on inside, and let’s take a ride on Thomas Monteleone’s Night Train.

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Bad Science and Worse Parenting: The Orpheus Process

Welcome to your only source for the real news about the latest inventions and innovations in Science, the only field of study that destroys mankind on a regular basis. Broadcasting live from a collapsing tower constructed entirely of out-of-print paperbacks, this is Freaky Fridays.

Abyss was the hottest imprint in horror. Founded in the late Eighties, lasting into the early Nineties, Dell inexplicably decided to get into the horror paperback game even as the market tanked around them. Editor Jeanne Cavelos was given virtually free reign and she used Abyss to publish some of the most innovative horror fiction of those decades, issuing mind-melting, genre-redefining novels from Michael Blumlein, Poppy Z. Brite, Melanie Tem, and Kathe Koja. She also published The Orpheus Process.

Queen Elizabeth II called 1992 her “annus horribilis” which I’ve always interpreted to mean that she somehow read The Orpheus Process. The OP, is one of those books so over-the-top, so completely mental, so totally out to lunch that it never quite comes back from lunch even though you gave it $11 to bring you a soup and some breadsticks. It is the novelistic equivalent of going to the videostore to rent Gremlins and getting Boxer’s Omen instead.

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Hi, Satan! The Devil-Worshiping Pulps of the ’70s

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, your Dark Lord and Master who rises from the infernal pit and commands you to seek dusty out-of-print paperbacks from used bookstores and read them until your face melts off and slides down your chest.

Satan sure is a popular fellow! People are constantly praising him, praying to him, worrying about him, gossiping about him, cursing him, and sacrificing virgins to him. God’s pretty powerful, but Satan’s got cults, horror movies, the Smurfs, most children’s toys, and heavy metal music in his corner.

But how does Satan work? Where does he go? What does he do? Can he be washed with water or do you need a fast-evaporating alcohol-based spray to get the grime out from between his wings? All the following books have something to say about Satan and so I’m going to run through them quickly to make sure you get as much useful info as possible in the smallest amount of space. It’s the Freaky Friday way!

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True Artistry in Paperback Horror: Ken Greenhall’s Childgrave

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, the last chance to rediscover the forgotten authors of the paperback originals boom of the Seventies and Eighties before all paper crumbles into dust and they’re lost forever.

The Seventies were a time when Americans abandoned the cities for the country, barely even stopping at the suburbs on the way out the door. All told, 1970-80 was the first decade since 1810-20 that rural counties actually grew faster than urban and suburban communities. This was the decade of white flight, when Americans abandoned what they perceived as dangerous cities and soulless suburbs to get back to nature and in touch with the land by moving to small town America.

What they found waiting for them were secretive, isolated gulags founded by Satanic painters, bloodthirsty fertility cults, and crazed religious sects. Sometimes they found hamlets that had built their town squares on Indian burial mounds or situated the local lunatic asylum over the site of a centuries-old massacre. It was a crisis in town planning that resulted in ancient curses, restless spirits, and bizarre rituals being unleashed on average Americans in unprecedented numbers. Books ranging from Harvest Home to The Curse to The Searing to Maynard’s House chronicled the carnage. Some writers, like Ira Levin, satirized the whole “Escape from Progress” project in The Stepford Wives. Others, like Ken Greenhall, took a considerably bleaker view.

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Insufferable Devil Children: Seed of Evil

Welcome to Freaky Friday, that day of the week when well-dressed children lying in their coffins stare back at you from the covers of out-of-print paperbacks. It’s creepy! Who makes a child wear a tie????

Dating is hard. Especially if you’re Patty Thompson, a divorced 23-year-old mother of two (Janet and Little Frankie). First, her chain-smoking mother, Lydia, lives with her and criticizes everything she does. Second, her dead end apartment complex smells like cabbage (“stale and sour”) which is a huge turn-off for any man she brings home who’s not a leprechaun. Third, the only bar she frequents is the Red Lantern Lounge at the end of her block where toothless alcoholics go to gum their rotgut vodka and their corpses get swept out at the end of the night. And fourth, she has zero self-esteem. Maybe less. “Patty glanced at her reflection behind the bar, then quickly turned away her head…the less she saw of herself the less she’d remember how pathetic she really looked.” Patty’s got so much going against her that it’s really no surprise to the reader that the first man she takes home since her divorce not only gets her pregnant, but turns out to be Satan. Or maybe James Taylor? But probably Satan.

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The Horrors of the Female Body: The Searing

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, the day of the week when we talk about female troubles. And to properly diagnose and treat them, we turn to the musty out-of-print paperbacks of the past for guidance. Because that’s where all the best medical knowledge is.

Let us pity, for a moment, women. They have a lot of problems that men don’t have to worry about. They age terribly, they’re always getting fat, and if they’re not completely careful every second of the day, they have babies. Also, they smell bad (feminine hygiene—learn about it, people). When they sweat it’s just terrible so they need to be extra careful about that, too. If they smile too much they’re creepy, but if they don’t smile enough they need to be shot with tranquilizer darts and put in a zoo.

Then there’s the entire issue of… Down There.

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The Food Pyramid of Death: The Farm

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, where we celebrate the one food group no one likes: you. Fortunately, out-of-print paperbacks from the dim and distant past are here to warn us about the menace of the Food Pyramid of Death!

Prepare yourself to meet The Hogs From Hell, little piggies so evil that when they go to market they eat the market. When they stay home, they destroy the home. Everyone likes to eat bacon, right? Well, in the United Kingdom, bacon eats YOU!

Old McDonald had a farm,
ee i ee i o
And on that farm everything wanted to kill you
ee i ee i o

As one character proclaims in The Farm, “There’s no doubt that those bloody pigs mean business.” And the business they mean is death! But these aren’t just random deadly piggies. This is the story of an entire farm on drugs, where every single pig, cow, horse, sheep, chicken, and bunny rabbit is on drugs and these aren’t fun drugs. These are drugs that command them to kill.

With a kill kill here
And a kill kill there
Here a kill
There a kill
Everywhere a kill kill
Old McDonald had a Murder Farm
ee i ee i o…

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Let’s Join a Cult! The Brainwashing Pulps of the ’70s and ’80s

Welcome to Freaky Fridays. You have come home. We’ve been waiting for you. Just relax, stop thinking, and read the sacred out-of-print paperbacks that allow us to understand the secret wisdom of the universe. We love you. Love us. There is no self. There is only us. Do not resist. Just relax. Become love with us.

Hey everyone, let’s join a cult! All the kids are doing it, and if you can give me one good reason not to do it, then I’ll give you an apple pie. Cults are fun! Cults are crazy! Cults can help you get ahead in this world! Cults actually run this world! Cults provide instant friends for the marginalized, the unwanted, and the short. I can’t think of a single problem that a cult couldn’t solve if they all put on their robes and worked together. So why wouldn’t you join one? You are actually holding yourself back and limiting your life every minute you are not in a cult.

The problem is, with so many cults to choose from, how do you narrow it down to just one? Cults aren’t like Better Business Bureaus. You can’t join two or three at a time. You have to pick one and commit. So how do you find the right cult for you? Allow Freaky Friday to help.

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Terrorist Toys: William Hallahan’s Keeper of the Children

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, the best source for your weekly dose of outrage inspired by out-of-print paperbacks from the Seventies and Eighties. Finally, a flavor of anger that suits you and tastes minty fresh all at the same time!

Wake up, America! We’ve been complacent for too long. For decades our enemies have been infiltrating our homes, brainwashing our children, and turning us against one another. It’s time we came together as a country and turned our anger on the real enemy. They’ll try to stop us, of course. They’ll try to make us look crazy which won’t be very hard, because even naming this enemy sounds like you’ve put on your tin foil hat and started talking about SPAWAR at a dinner party…but SPAWAR turned out to be true so the joke’s on everyone else!

Who are these devious anti-American termites gnawing away at the foundations of our democracy from deep within the house of liberty? You know who I’m talking about. Our sworn enemies are not the liberals, or the Communists, or the Fascists. The enemy of mankind has been nestled in our arms all along: toys! Tickle Me Elmo? Tickle Me Terrorist! Lego Batman? Let’s Go Overturn Democracy Batman! Don’t even get me started on the Velveteen Rabbit—that lethal lagomorph should be in Gitmo for trying to help his plush army “turn real.” You want “real”? How about a couple of steel-jacketed slugs from my .45, you heinous hare? Is that real enough for you?

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