For the most part, I consider myself a thrifty consumer of media. I love going through discount racks, library stores and yard sales for new reading or watching experiences. Playing the long game with getting my hands on these things has paid off for the most part. However, in recent years, I’ve realized that there are certain authors, bands and filmmakers whose output I just know I’ll want. Stephen King is one of those authors and so are Lauren Beukes, Paul Tremblay and Grady Hendrix. That decision happened to come along at a time when I felt like I was slowing down with my reading and coming up with too many gimmicks for choosing what to read. Unlike my new randomization process for choosing movies, I decided to just go with my gut.
So, a few weeks ago when we were getting ready for a nice cruise vacation, I looked around and grabbed two books to bring along, plus a few comics…and my iPad loaded for bear with all sorts of stuff. I used King’s The Colorado Kid as a nice appetizer to get me going and then tore through Hendrix’s How To Sell A Haunted House which came out this year. I read my first Grady book back in 2020 and have been a fan ever since. I’m especially impressed with his ability to craft these incredible horror stories as well as light, but highly informative and entertaining non-fiction books about horror paperbacks and martial arts action flicks (I’m reading These Fists Break Bricks right now). I got so into his stuff that I read just about all of it and discussed them in an episode of The High Five podcast. I don’t believe I had finished The Final Girl Support Group by that time, but I will say that it felt like a bit of a stumble for me mostly because it was, in my opinion, too heavily based on existing horror tropes. However, with this latest book, he carves out all new territory with delightful results.
Having read most of his books, I’ve come to appreciate Grady’s ability to build complex relationships between characters and then see what happens to those bonds when that particular book’s horror elements come into play. In the case of Haunted House, Louise is a single mother who had a pretty good relationship with her parents, but not her brother Mark. When their parents passed away, she leaves her daughter with the girl’s father and travels back home to Charleston to deal with the fallout, almost immediately coming into conflict with Mark. The longer Louise remains in her hometown — and specifically the house she grew up in — the more she remembers traumatic moments in her childhood while also recontextualizing her relationship with Mark and his actions. Oh, and also that their mother’s doll and puppet collection just might be alive.
I really don’t want to get too far into the plot and twists of this book, but I will say that I give Hendrix mountains of credit for taking what many consider a deeply strange horror subgenre and infusing it with so much humanity and intrigue that you just can’t stop reading. I’m a pretty slow reader and I think it took me three days to read all 413 pages. A major reason for that was the fact that we were on vacation and I had much more time, but also because I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.
In fact, for reasons I still don’t recall, I started telling my kids and wife a toned down version of what was happening. Both kids were pretty interested, but our youngest really got into it, even pouncing on me a few times to catch everyone up on what happened. That was such a unique experience in and of itself that it pushed me to read more and more, including on Royal Caribbean’s island and back on the boat in the English style pub as you can see in the photos. Our eldest even did a bit of Pupkin fan art, trying to figure out what the book’s true star looks like.
I’m a few weeks from finishing the novel and still find myself thinking about Louise, Mark and everything she went through in this book. I’m not a single parent, but I could easily relate to her struggles with how to parent and what to carry over from your own childhood and what not to. You also go on a real roller coaster when it comes to Mark who we don’t like at first because we see him through Louise’s eyes, but then we learn his truth and how wild that was. Frankly, the whole family has a lot more going on than you expect from the beginning and the reveals throughout the story are each more stunning than the previous one. Having read Paperbacks From Hell and feeling Grady’s love for horror as a whole and each of the oddball subgenres, I’m not surprise that he did such an incredible job with How To Sell A Haunted House, even though the book itself is absolutely jam packed with shockers.
If you’re looking to grab a copy and wouldn’t mind helping me out, here’s my Amazon Associates link to How to Sell A Haunted House. Thanks!