content by

Grady Hendrix

Fiction and Excerpts [2]

Fiction and Excerpts [2]

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

|| A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade, but is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

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.

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?

[Read more]

No One Likes a Brainchild

Welcome to Freaky Friday, that moment at the end of the week when you put down your torches and pitchforks, exhausted after six whole days of pursuing mad scientists to the edge of cliffs where they have the choice of either leaping to their dooms or being burned to death by your angry mob, and just relax and read something for fun before picking up the tools of your liberation once more.

Do you know what’s wrong with America? We don’t got no STEM. In case you’ve been asleep while Japanese high school students have been doing fifth-dimensional geometry and Norwegian middle school students have been building particle accelerators during recess, STEM is: “A curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.”

It’s the future of global leadership and we suck at it. Our kids aren’t in the top 10 for math or science scores, and most of them can’t even name the 10 best Pokemons without pulling out their phones. Want to know why we’re so bad at STEM? Read that last sentence again: “Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.” You know what that means? We need to encourage our kids to turn their homes into giant experiments where their parents and siblings are unwitting test subjects who have their behavior modified with electric shocks, that’s what it means. And Andrew Neiderman knew that before anyone.

[Read more]

Can’t Hardly Bear It: Malachy McCoy’s Kodiak!

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, your fifteen-foot tall, 1,500 pound, fur-covered guide to the dusty old out-of-print paperbacks of yesteryear. We eat our weight in fresh salmon every day.

Bears are the most employable members of the animal kingdom. Kuma is the bodyguard for Heihachi Mishima. Billy Bob Brockali leads the Rock-afire Explosion Band at Showbiz Pizza (his evil cousin, Freddy Fazbear does the same over at the pizza parlor bearing his name). Fozzie Bear is a professional stand-up comedian for the Muppets. And Smokey is the most famous park ranger of all time. Then there are the questionable bears. The illegal immigrant bears (Paddington), the freeloaders (Yogi), the addicts (Winnie the Pooh), and those stupid lazy polar bears who just sit on their butts and drink Coca-Cola all day long.

Far worse, however, are the thug bears.

[Read more]

Remembering William Peter Blatty, 1928-2017

Yesterday, author and director William Peter Blatty died. Most people will remember him as the guy who wrote The Exorcist. I’ll remember him as the guy who took the freedom he got from The Exorcist and wrote two complicated, thorny, hopeful horror novels and then adapted them into two complicated, thorny, hopeful horror movies (which he also directed). And I’ll remember him as a novelist who was capable of turning out dialogue that read as sharp and surprising as Elmore Leonard’s, only with a far more philosophical bent.

Born to Lebanese immigrants, Blatty was raised by a single mother whose poverty turned his childhood into a constant flight to stay one step ahead of eviction. Blatty received a deeply Catholic education and was a deeply devout Catholic. He was so religious that the needle that goaded him into writing The Exorcist was watching Rosemary’s Baby with its famously ambiguous ending that, to him, felt like a cop-out. How the hell could a horror movie end with the forces of evil triumphant? A few years later, he pitched a courtroom novel about a kid who kills an adult and uses a claim of demonic possession as her defense to Mark Jaffe of Bantam Books, a paperback company (Bantam would later sell the hardcover rights to Harper & Row). It was a New Year’s party, everyone was drinking, Jaffe bought the book. It wound up getting titled The Exorcist.

[Read more]

High-Tech Wizardry: C> The Shadow Man

Welcome to Freaky Fridays.
Current date is Fri 12-01-1986
Enter new date:
Current time is: 13:01:24.18
Enter new time:
The IBM Personal Computer DOS
Version 2.0 (C)Copyright IBM Corp 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986


Stephen Gresham would one day write the best book about magicians ever conceived (Abracadabra, 1988) but in 1986 his greatest accomplishment was still on the horizon. For now, he had already written novels for Zebra Books that explored haunted lakes (Moon Lake, 1982), elderly transvestite serial killers (Rockabye Baby, 1984), and skeletons playing the banjo (Dew Claws, 1986), so clearly it was time for him to write about the personal computer revolution. And for Gresham, there was a simple question that needed to be asked.

[Q: What tasks can a PC (personal computer) accomplish in your home?]

All Orphans Are Terrifying: Frank Lauria’s The Foundling

2016 could not kill us, and 2017 will not be our undoing either. It’s Freaky Fridays, back from a holiday-shaped grave and still your tiny and adorable paperback sump pump hooked up to your eyes and filling your skull with weirdness on a weekly basis.

As we head into the new year it’s important to remember that everything is dangerous. Temp jobs (The Shining), traveling for work (Dracula), going to university (Frankenstein), sleepovers (The Haunting of Hill House), studying hard (Doctor Faustus), buying a car (Christine), or even just minding your own business (Red Dragon). Once kids are involved you’re in truly terrifying territory because everything about them is scary: having a baby (Rosemary’s Baby), babysitting (The Turn of the Screw), bringing your baby back from the dead (Pet Sematary), going on a school trip (Lord of the Flies). But nothing is generally accepted to be as completely off-the-rails insane as adopting a child. Even a totally rad orphan with mad guitar skills.

[Read more]

Just Hear Those Slay Bells Jingling

Ho, ho, ho! Don’t be sad, it’s that most wonderful time of the week when we delve into Santa’s bulging sack (of old paperbacks, you pervert) and pull out something ripe and delicious to stick our noses into together (that one was on purpose). It’s time for Freaky Fridays!

“You’d better watch out / You’d better not cry / You’d better not pout / I’m telling you why / Santa Claus is stabbing you in the face over and over and over again until you’re dead!” That’s the beautiful traditional Christmas carol my family sang when I was a child, and I sing it to my children today. And it’s also the wonderful song that runs through Jo Gibson’s Slay Bells, a 1994 Yuletide YA slasher written by Jo Gibson, a pen name for Joanne Fluke, beloved author of the Hannah Swensen baking mystery books—she’s whipped up 21 of these little beauties since 2001 with such scrumptious titles as Fudge Cupcake Murder, Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, and Christmas Caramel Murder. The Winston Salem Journal says, “Mm, mm, Fluke’s fans can’t wait for the next confection in the series to be served up.” Well, since she’s republishing her YA work written as Jo Gibson, there’s no need to wait. Just pick up Slay Bells for some Mm, mm, mmurder, along with mm, mmm, mmmmayhemmmm, and mm, mmm, mmmmmorons. All set in mm, mm, MMMmmmminesota.

[Read more]

Home for the Holidays: The Sibling

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, that most wonderful time of the week when we curl up in front of a roaring fire with an old horror paperback and wait for it to consume us and reduce us to ashes as we read.

It’s time for that most important holiday of the White Anglo Saxon Protestant year: Christmas! Is there a season more sacred to the cast of St Elmo’s Fire, Ordinary People, Love Story, and anything by Whit Stillman than the Yuletide days when they can wear tweed and corduroy, put on their turtlenecks, sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, drunk drive over icy roads as they head home from the country club, and overdose on sedatives in their extravagant bathrooms of Venetian marble while sobbing silently?

Horror paperbacks have risen to the occasion by turning out a fistful of excellent tales of WASP destruction set during the holiday season, from the boarding school pyromania of Tricycle, to the gibbering nervous breakdown of Such Nice People, and the cold-blooded sociopathic antics of Halo. But the most over-the-top of the bunch is The Sibling, a wonderfully-written account of a young man sliding into madness, falling in love with his sister, and picking out and wrapping the worst Christmas present ever (hint: he found it attached to a corpse).

[Read more]

The Trouble With Yetis: Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Welcome to Freaky Fridays: War on Christmas edition! From now until Santa has murdered all the naughty children and Krampus is doing a jig in their guts, we’ll be talking about the weird old paperback novels that put the “ow” in snowman.

Normally, I don’t start these columns talking about the cover art, but look at that guy. Just look at him. What you’re seeing is the online dating profile used by the Abominable Snowman when he’s looking for a mate. First, he thoughtfully tells us his age (“thousands of years”) so that we understand he’s a sugar daddy looking for a sugar baby, then he makes sure we know his interests (likes to stalk the earth; is a foodie) ensuring his dietary preferences are front and center because, as we all know, most sugar babies are body conscious and wouldn’t be comfortable feasting at all, let alone on the flesh of humans, since they’re mostly vegan.

OKCupid says men’s profile photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and don’t smile. Yeti’s on it. You should be doing something interesting, preferably with your pet. Yeti is hiking, and he’s his own pet: done. eHarmony advises that your profile photo be flattering, genuine, and accurate. Check, check, and check again. He’s even listed his full name (Norman Bogner) under his username (Snowman). Okay, Yeti is ready to fire his proton torpedoes into your thermal exhaust port, so what’s stopping this hairy snowman? Turns out: everything. YETI IS TERRIBLE AT DATING.

[Read more]

The Horrors of Healthcare: William Woolfolk’s The Sendai

Congratulations! You survived seven more days on this planet! You deserve a freaky Friday, where I dig into the vault and pull out some weird and forgotten horror book that smells like cat hair.

It’s open enrollment period on the health insurance marketplace so what better time to read The Sendai? If you’re looking for new health insurance, and especially if you’re thinking of having yourself a litter of babies, it can be scary trying to pick the right doctor. Fortunately, The Sendai is here with some tips! First, stay away from any clinic or doctor with a name out of a Cronenberg movie. Second, do not give birth in a delivery room that includes a conveyor belt leading to The Off-Limits Building. Also, maybe don’t have a baby in a clinic that has something referred to as The Off-Limits Building.

Basically, do not have your baby at The Karyll Clinic in The Sendai, unless you want to have your newborn child replaced with a lifeless rubber dummy you’ll weep over while your actual suckling babe is conveyed off to its horrible new life as a genetic mutant.

[Read more]

The Liquor Locker’s Finest Hour: Satan Sublets

Welcome to Freaky Friday, where your apartment is a Hell hole and Satan signed the lease. Brace yourselves, because your friends Insanity, Gore, and Utter Stupidity all have spare keys.

Hell is New York City real estate, as Peter Harcourt of Pentagram Films learns when he moves his family into a too-good-to-be-true sublet on Manhattan’s West 77th Street. Given that it’s on the 13th floor and his realtor is named Lucifer Devlin, it’s no surprise that they’ve barely had time to get their sofa delivered before his little daughter is sacrificing their cat to Satan (that’s the cat floating a few inches above the floor in Stephen Shub’s surreal cover). Her mom discovers the cat sacrifice, freaks out, but refuses to bother her husband at work. Instead, she pours herself a great big Scotch, and falls into a reverie:

“She had begun to question everything. Was this really what life was? A home, a husband, a child? What do we really know of the universe? We don’t even know who or what we are, or where the blazes we come from. Is living a reality? Judie began to question the whole meaning of life. It was a terrible feeling.”

[Read more]

Dark Angel: Suck it, Succubus!

Welcome to Freaky Friday, that day of the week when we all eat fish and have a good think about the sexy demons from Hell who are, right this minute, plotting ways to have sex with us and corrupt our immortal souls, according to paperback horror novels written in 1982.

Early Eighties horror loved succubi and incubi and horny ghosts, who filled the pages of Bedroom Intruder novels like Incubus (1976, Ray Russell), The Entity (1978, Frank De Felitta), The Night Visitor (1979, Laura Wylie), Succubus (1980, Kenneth Rayner Johnson), Queen of Hell (1981, J.N. Williamson), and Satyr (1981, Linda Crockett Gray). There was also a massive fascination with the Catholic church and horror novels like The Guardian (1979, Jeffrey Konvitz), The Piercing (1979, John Coyne), Virgin (1980, James Patterson), and In the Name of the Father (1980, John Zodrow) capitalized on the ascension of A New Pope.

Dark Angel was where the hunger for succubi collided with the fascination for Catholicism in an overheated hothouse of a novel that tells the story of how Pope John Paul II was stalked by a flesh-hungry succubus who wanted his baby, and how one lone wolf Irish-American priest risked everything to slake her insatiable thirst for man flesh and save the Pope’s sperm.

[Read more]

You Don’t Have to Understand the Moonchild To Kill It

Welcome to Freaky Friday, that day of the week when a beautiful coffin arrives at your front door and you don’t remember ordering anything from Amazon but then you open it anyway and a monster arm comes out and strangles you.

When I was a child, I appeared in a lot of community theater and I was often dressed like that small child on the cover of Kenneth McKenney’s The Moonchild, minus the glowing. Like that small child, I was forced to wear little Lord Fauntleroy suits and stage make-up and, glancing into the mirror backstage, I did not feel like a powerful thespian capable of commanding attention and inspiring awe. I felt like an emasculated gerbil who would be lucky not to get stomped to death by a startled housewife. But McKenney wants us to fear this Moonchild on the cover of his book, and if you stare at it long enough you will fear him. You will fear that maybe one day one of your own children will start dressing like him and then you will have to drive them far off into the country and put them out of the car, and drive away.

But if you can get past that instinctual fear we all have when confronted with a small child wearing lip gloss and knickerbockers, you will find within these covers what is basically a Hammer horror film in prose form. And that’s a good thing because winter is coming and that’s the time for a mug of hot cocoa, a roaring fire, and blubbering but loyal servants, old crones muttering dire warnings, and coach chases through snowy Bavaria landscapes. And also class warfare.

[Read more]

Survival at a Price: Welcome to Bari Wood’s The Tribe

Freaky Friday is here! That day of the week where we examine the beautiful traditions of the Jewish people by reading books about golems tearing off the legs of underaged gangbangers.

Jewish horror is a very small subset of the massive paperback horror boom of the 1970s and ’80s. In fact, if you take out Nazi horror it becomes positively tiny, especially compared to Native American horror novels which are not horror novels written by members of North America’s First Nations but are, in fact, books where ancient Indian (a) monsters, (b) real estate, (c) curses kill white people. But even without Nazis, Jewish horror exists. And it is quite silly.

There’s The Gilgul (’90) with its famous cover and possessed Jewish bride finger-banging a nurse after she’s locked up in a hospital, a sight so shocking it sends her fiance’ fleeing to Miami where he tries to kill himself by having sex with the skeeviest prostitutes he can find, hoping to contract AIDS. There’s Red Devil (’89), in which KGB agents armed with super-powered shofars take on demonically possessed spies during an inter-agency war after Satan ditches the dying Nazis at the end of WW II and becomes a Soviet intelligence officer for the duration of the Cold War. And while both books have their charms, they don’t hold out a lot of hope for the general reader. In fact, I was at a low point when I picked up Bari Wood’s The Tribe and flipped open the frankly underwhelming stepback cover. I knew it was a book about a golem and I knew it was written in 1981. But I wasn’t expecting much.

I was so wrong.

[Read more]