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Grady Hendrix

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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

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.

The Great Stephen King Reread: The Regulators

The title for The Regulators came to Stephen King first, the gimmick came second, the book came third, and like one of Roger Corman’s AIP productions, where the poster and title were developed long before anyone started writing a script, the results are 1% inspiration, 99% exasperation. This is the book version of Reptilicus or Muscle Beach Party—thin, undemanding entertainment that doesn’t add up to much. Normally, that’s fine, except King had just turned in one of his best-loved books, The Green Mile, and one of his most important books, Desperation.

The Regulators can’t hold a candle to either of these predecessors, and so it winds up feeling even thinner than it already is. King doesn’t help matters by turning the writing over to Richard Bachman, who should have stayed dead.

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Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

The Great Stephen King Reread: Desperation

When you think about it, the whole thing makes sense. After all, the Bible is full of mutilation, torture, murder, sex crimes, and just plain old perversity. But the idea is an uncomfortable one. And yet, after reading Stephen King’s Desperation, you have to admit that one of the most profound Christian novels of the second half of the 20th century involves a crazed cop ranting about Jews and blowjobs, cougar vs. man combat, a live buzzard having its wings torn off, and a man ripping out his own tongue. Stephen King, everybody!

“The other thing that’s interested me ever since I was a kid was the idea that’s baldly articulated in Desperation, and that is that God is cruel,” King said in an interview with Salon, and there is cruelty galore in this book. There’s also a whole lot of God, from the opening line “Oh! Oh, Jesus! Gross!” to the final sentence which reads, “David put his head back against the seat, closed his eyes, and began to pray.” What changed between 1985, when King was hopped up on coke, writing “The Mist” with its shrill Christian lynch mob, and 1994 when he wrote Desperation with its no-nonsense God who’s a source of quiet strength? Looking at his bio it’s pretty obvious: he got sober. Because the God of Desperation is the God of AA.

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Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

The Great Stephen King Reread: The Green Mile

In November, 1995, it was announced that Stephen King wouldn’t just release one book in 1996, he would release eight. Two were scheduled for the same day in September (Desperation and The Regulators) and six would be serialized installments of The Green Mile, released once a month in 100 page chapbooks by Signet from March through August. Comparisons to Charles Dickens abounded, booksellers worried about what would happen if people lost interest after the first volume (not to worry—at one point, all six books were simultaneously on the New York Times bestseller list), Pocket Books stole the idea for three of their VC Andrews series, John Saul swiped the idea for his Blackstone Chronicles, and the eventual 1999 movie adaptation remains the highest-grossing Stephen King adaptation of all time, earning nearly twice as much as the runner-up.

But even though it’s lumped in with his more critically-acclaimed realistic novels like “The Body,” Hearts in Atlantis, and Misery, The Green Mile is usually considered second-tier. It’s too sentimental, its symbolism is too on-the-nose, it’s got a Magical Negro at the center, and any way you slice it, a book set in 1932 featuring an intelligent mouse, an enormous kindly black man with magical powers, and a nice prison warden sounds like Stephen King doing Walt Disney. But reading this book again it felt much more hard-edged than I remembered. And that Magical Negro? Turns out he’s not so magical after all.

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Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

The Great Stephen King Reread: Rose Madder

Welcome to Rose Madder or, The Book That Stephen King Keeps Throwing Under the Bus. “Sometimes I feel like a baseball player,” he said in an interview. “In that some books feel like singles and some books feel like doubles and every so often you get a Rose Madder.” Or how about, “I’ve had bad books. I think Rose Madder fits in that category, because it never really took off.” Fans generally name it as one of their least favorites, and it’s consistently coming in last on rankings of his novels.

What makes this book so bad that even its own creator doesn’t have anything nice to say about it? Why do we hate this book? And does that make us giant jerkwads, since King has frequently said that lots of people come up to him and say this is the book that gave them the courage to leave their abusive spouses?

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Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

The Great Stephen King Reread: Insomnia

There was a time when Stephen King didn’t write about ancient evils that threatened the universe. Sure, ‘Salem’s Lot was about a town full of vampires, but it was a small town, and yes, The Shining was about a haunted hotel, but it wasn’t a chain of them. The Stand was a big sprawling book about good and evil that rambled from Maine to Colorado, but it was balanced by Christine about a boy and his car, and Cujo about two families, a dog, and a car. Despite the presence of the Wendigo, Pet Sematary is essentially a domestic novel that takes place in two houses, a patch of woods, and a cemetery.

But at some point King decided to go big. Desperation, The Regulators, and Insomnia are books where King isn’t content to write about anything less than the fate of the universe, and I blame The Dark Tower for super-sizing his fiction.

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Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

Evil Eighties: The Killer Kids of Somebody Come and Play

Kids: you can’t live with ‘em, you can’t kill ‘em. Whether it’s an unhappy baby that keeps you awake for days until your mind snaps, a demented infant that seems determined to drown you in its own poop, or a toddler who screeches a high-pitched wail until your face explodes, children are the ultimate evil.

In the 70’s and 80’s creepy kids became a mainstay of horror fiction, with one stepback cover of an evil child blurring into another on the racks. John Saul swung between putting kids in peril and making them evil, Ruby Jean Jensen was a one-woman evil baby machine, and Andrew Niederman gave us Brainchild, Child’s Play, Playmates, Teacher’s Pet, and Sister, Sister. Slogging it out down there in the trenches with them was Clare McNally, who wrote about 13 books between 1980 and 1997. Killer kids were an industry because, as Alain Robbe-Grillet once said, “What do little girls dream about? Knives and blood.”

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Evil Eighties: The Mysteries of Norah Lofts

In this series, Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör, and Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction are back to uncover the best (and worst) horror paperbacks from the 1980s.

Historical romance novelist Norah Lofts wrote over fifty novels in her lifetime, working under her own name and the pseudonyms Juliet Astley and Peter Curtis. She wrote novels about Isabella of Spain, and Anne Boleyn, and Katherine of Aragon. She wrote a long series of interconnected novels about village life in the fictitious East Anglia town of Balidon. She wrote several novels that trace the lives and deaths of the inhabitants of some of England’s grand homes.

And, in 1982, she wrote The Claw about a living dead serial rapist who terrorizes an entire town, mutilating his victims with a massive iron claw.

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Evil Eighties: The Finicky Details of Linda Crockett Gray

In this series, Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör, and Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction are back to uncover the best (and worst) horror paperbacks from the 1980s.

In Tangerine by Linda Crockett Gray, you haven’t reached page 34 before you reach this passage about a ring of porn kings who shoot specialty videotapes. Their latest commission is pricey because the fantasy they’re realizing involves a woman suffocating an 11-year-old boy to death with her breasts. Then she covers the boy in flowers and eats them off his dead body. The customer? A podiatrist in Utah who paid $2,000 for this masterpiece of cinema.

With sleaze this deep so early in a book, you kind of feel like you’ve won the lottery. Then you read the rest of this 344 page novel and you realize: no. Reading Linda Crockett Gray is like the lottery, only it’s the real one, where you always lose.

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Evil Eighties: The Creepy Nursery Rhymes of Elizabeth Engstrom

In this series, Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör, and Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction are back to uncover the best (and worst) horror paperbacks from the 1980s.

Reading horror paperbacks from the 80s is like buying drugs off the street. You wind up with so many bags of oregano that you lose hope, and then, suddenly, you’re clutching the real deal and the top of your head is lifting off and you can’t remember your name, your address, or whether you’re biologically human.

But finding the real deal brings its own flavor of depression because it raises questions like, “Why isn’t this author better known?” and “What happened to their careers?” Which is exactly how I felt when I stumbled across Elizabeth Engstrom’s Black Ambrosia and When Darkness Loves Us and realized I had never heard of them, or their author, before. It made me want to scream to the heavens, “Who’s responsible this???

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Evil Eighties: The Paperback Horrors of Lisa Tuttle

Starting last Friday the 13th, Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör, and Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction are back to uncover the best (and worst) horror paperbacks from the 1980s.

Who is Lisa Tuttle and why is she such a pervert? We may never find an answer to that second question. After all, what drives an author to write some of the most psychologically harrowing, squick-inducing, “find your soft places and dig in with my fingernails” mass market paperbacks of the 1980s? Why does she seem to delight in our discomfort? But maybe the answer is easy.

Why is Lisa Tuttle so perverse? It might be because her books taste better that way.

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Exploring Age as the Reason No One Gets Out Alive. Stephen King’s Revival

According to the press release, the new Stephen King novel, Revival, features “the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written.” The Independent says it “practically screams ‘return to form’.” Critics say it’s a riff on Frankenstein, it’s King’s mad scientist book, it’s a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. Stephen King books arrive in a cloud of advance hype with everyone, from his marketing department to his critics, telling us what each book is really about. But the joy of Revival lies in going in cold. So stop reading now, and just go read it for yourself. You won’t be sorry. But for a longer, spoilery discussion of where it fits into The King’s Canon, hit the jump.

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The Bloody Books of Halloween: Fatal Beauty and Small World

Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör, and Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction are digging deep inside the Jack o’Lantern of Literature to discover the best (and worst) horror paperbacks. Are you strong enough to read THE BLOODY BOOKS OF HALLOWEEN???

During the horror boom of the 70s and 80s the aesthetic was fast, cheap, and out-of-control. Covers were lurid, titles were embossed in gold that dripped reflective ruby blood, back cover copy was pumped into delirious word poetry that oversold whatever was inside. High concept was king, and publishers were glutting the marketplace with product. Good writers towered over the landscape, but for every Ghost Story or Cujo there were a million B-books, churned out to plug publishing schedules with lurid thrills.

Some of these were from writers who were accomplished hacks, enthusiastically delivering schlock with gusto, while others were written by frustrated literary novelists who pinched their noses and couldn’t quite embrace the game. Today we’re talking about one of each: William Schoell and Tabitha King.

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The Bloody Books of Halloween: Wurm

Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör, and Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction are digging deep inside the Jack o’Lantern of Literature to discover the best (and worst) horror paperbacks. Are you strong enough to read THE BLOODY BOOKS OF HALLOWEEN???

Matthew J. Costello! He consulted on Titanic! He was a Bram Stoker Award finalist for his 1992 novel Homecoming! He writes children’s television! He writes videogames! He wrote an original prequel for Peter Jackson’s King Kong! And in 1991, between banging out the novelizations for Child’s Play 2 and Child’s Play 3 he published one of the funnest, dumbest, goopiest riffs on Alien I’ve ever read.

Imagine the xenomorph as a giant phallic symbol living in a pineapple under the sea and say it with me in a German accent… Ladies and gentlemen, Wurm.

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The Bloody Books of Halloween: Dead White and Black Christmas

Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstör, and Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction are digging deep inside the Jack o’Lantern of Literature to discover the best (and worst) horror paperbacks. Are you strong enough to read THE BLOODY BOOKS OF HALLOWEEN???

By 1983, horror had started to eat itself. Stephen King had published almost all of his major early novels, and was a bonafide mainstream pop culture phenomena. E.T., Tootsie, Rocky III, and 48 Hrs. were huge at the box office, whereas the Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Amityville Horror franchises were already spitting out inferior sequels. The paperback horror boom was in full bloom, and books were coming out so quickly that they were showing the anxiety of their influences. Nowhere is that more obvious than in two 1983 books, both set in snowy upstate New York, one black and one white: Dead White and Black Christmas.

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Under the Dome: “Go Now”

In a rousing speech delivered at the edge of what Fivehead Norrie describes as “A Giant Killer Suck Hole,” Dale Barbara tells the residents of Chester’s Mill, “For the last two weeks we have fought together for the survival of this town!” In those 14 days an underground fight club has opened (and closed), there’s been a drought, a food shortage, a missile attack, a terrorist attack, a plague of butterflies, an actual plague, a blood rain, a real rain, war with propane hoarders, a windmill has been built, hoses have been sprayed, gasoline (but not diesel) has run out, and we’ve experienced the drastic depopulation of the entire Chester’s Mill police department.

Is there any way that tonight’s season finale can possibly pack in more nonsense? “I have no idea,” Dale Barbie says about one minute before this episode ends. Dale, you took the words right out of my mouth.

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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.

Gideon Smith amazon buy linkGrady Hendrix’s latest novel, Horrorstör, is traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting—available September 23rd from Quirk Books. It comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.

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Under the Dome: “Turn”

There are two very important things that Under the Dome would like you to know. First, the Dome is shrinking. In the first five minutes of this episode Scarecrow Joe mentions it, Computer Hacker Guy mentions it, Fivehead Norrie mentions it, and so does Creepy Lyle, Rebecca Pine (high school science teacher and triage center setter-upper), Junior Rennie, Dale Barbie, and Julia Shumway. So guys, THE DOME IS SHRINKING OKAY?

Second, the actors have a very special message for you. “Thank god it’s warming up again,” says Pauline. “It seems warmer,” says Melanie. “The cold snap’s over,” says Junior Rennie. And, to bring it all home, Rebecca Pine, high school science teacher, “The Dome stopped spinning and inverting the atmosphere, that’s why the temperatures warmed up.” So guys, THE DOME IS WARM NOW OKAY? THE DOME IS WARM AND IT IS SHRINKING ALL RIGHT DID EVERYONE HEAR THAT? Good? Then let us begin.

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Summer of Sleaze: Guy Smith’s The Sucking Pit and The Walking Dead

Summer of Sleaze is 2014’s turbo-charged trash safari where Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction and Grady Hendrix of The Great Stephen King Reread plunge into the bowels of vintage paperback horror fiction, unearthing treasures and trauma in equal measure.

He enjoys tobacco. He loves guns. He does not like street lights. Truly, Guy N. Smith is a man of many facets, but he’s best known for his crabs. From 1976 until 2012 he wrote Night of the Crabs, Killer Crabs, The Origin of the Crabs, Crabs on the Rampage, Crabs’ Moon, Crabs: The Human Sacrifice, and Killer Crabs: The Return. Along with about 93 other books. But apart from being a prolific writer of all things crab, what does Guy N. Smith have to offer the modern reader?

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Under the Dome: “The Fall” and “Black Ice”

Watching Under the Dome is like French kissing an octopus (horrible but slightly less traumatic if you don’t resist) and as Season 2 nears its end that octopus is feeling more romantic than ever. It’s lashing my face wildly with its Plot Tentacles! It’s gnawing on my tongue hard with its Beak of Inconsistent Characterizations! It’s transferring its Spermatophores of Futility into my Mantle Cavity of God Help Us with its Hectocotylus of Awful Dialogue like a mad thing! My metaphorical make-out session with a love-crazed cephalopod has resulted in the current situation whereby I am recapping Two (2) TWO Under the Dome episodes at once.

So hold onto your Angie-Chopping Ax because you’re about to get both Barrels of Bafflement, right in the face! Prepare yourself for “The Fall” and “Black Ice.”

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Summer of Sleaze: The Exploitation of James Dallas Egbert III

Summer of Sleaze is 2014’s turbo-charged trash safari where Will Errickson of Too Much Horror Fiction and Grady Hendrix of The Great Stephen King Reread plunge into the bowels of vintage paperback horror fiction, unearthing treasures and trauma in equal measure.

“Last night I cast my first spell…this is real power!” Debbie gloats.

“Which spell did you cast, Debbie?” Ms. Frost asks.

“I used the mind bondage spell on my father. He was trying to stop me from playing D&D…He just bought me $200 worth of new D&D figures and manuals. It was great!”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 1984, the year Jack Chick published his famous anti-RPG tract, Dark Dungeons, revealing the shocking truth behind D&D: it is a gateway to Satanism and suicide! If you have rolled the polyhedral die, the only way to save your immortal soul is to burn all your monster manuals and player handbooks for Jesus. Underneath all its bluster, the moral lather B.A.D.D. (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons) worked itself into over RPGs had a very real nougaty center: the very sad suicide of a child prodigy named James Dallas Egbert III.

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