Over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my real entrance into horror. For years I said it came around the age of 14 or 15 and our Family Video membership, but that was when I got into horror movies. Years before that I found myself seduced by the mind-numbingly spooky drawings and tales in Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark which eventually lead to novels by the likes of Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine. I don’t remember exactly how that transition was made or who facilitated it, but I do distinctly remember talking to my friend John’s older sister Sharon about Pike books.
Curious to see how some of those formative books held up, I figured out a way to get paid to read the Scary Stories books (link to come when it goes live), but also wanted to dive back in to the world of Pike’s books, starting with Weekend from 1986 (I had no idea it was that “old” when I read it probably 10 years later). My memories from early adolescence are far from clear, but it seems like this might have been one of my early entrants into his oeuvre.
From what I remember, Weekend is a pretty representative offering from the author. There’s a deadly mystery revolving around a bunch of high school students with hints at supernatural elements in the works and nods to other horror genres with an ultimately happy ending. In this case, a group of friends heads to the Mexican mansion of two adoptive sisters Robin and Lena. They expect to be joined by their fellow classmates for a big party later in the weekend, but no one else shows up, which is just as well because they’re plagued by snakes, explosions, weird ravens, snakes and at least one traitor in their midst. Why would anyone go to all that trouble for this particular group of kids? Well, someone made Robin drink poison at a party and someone else wants to figure out who!
Much to my surprise I actually remembered the big twist at the end of this book, but I kind of think it would have been obvious to me even if I hadn’t. It’s not that it’s dumb or obvious, just that you go into a young adult book like this with a certain set of expectations and those get met pretty consistently.
Still, I enjoyed taking this little trip back in time, though I didn’t find it that dated. The relationships feel true and honest and if you changed a few pop culture references and added in a line about them not getting any cell phone reception, this could easily translate into a modern young adult thriller. Or, better yet, a kind of anthology series based on Pike’s books on a channel like The CW or MTV.
I was also surprised to discover that this was Pike’s second novel after Slumber Party which I also remember reading. Sure there’s plenty of teen melodrama and an extended metaphor that can come off as a little clunky, but this is a strong second effort for an author working in this particular genre.
While these early books remained more grounded in reality, he eventually dove headfirst into supernatural elements and even sci-fi later on down the line, all of which I ate up with a spoon. Actually, I enjoyed going back and checking out this scary story from my past that I’m seriously thinking of turning the whole idea into a podcast where a guest and I read or watch something that spooked one of us when we were kids and revisiting them now. I’m short on time these days, but hope to get the ball rolling on that pretty soon!
Back when I was still at ToyFare, I got a pretty epic box of books including the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives reprints. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that they’ve been sitting in my closet pretty much ever since. I might have pulled volume one out a few times, but never really dove in properly until this year. Not only was I excited to get into these stories as part of the Ambitious Halloween Reading List, but I was also able to make some money off of it by working on a fun list over at Topless Robot called The 10 Best Stores from the Early Days of Creepy.
I talked about some of the history over there, but basically, back in the mid 60s Warren Publishing figuratively picked up the mantle of EC Comics and rekindled quality horror anthology comics with books like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Many of the old school EC guys came over and did art while most of the stories in this volume were written by editor Archie Goodwin. After reading a few EC collections, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Creepy, but I’m glad to say I had a wonderful time reading these stories.
The big problem I had with the Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science books I’ve read is that, while the art is often amazing, the stories are hokey, boring or built in such a way that the twist ending is just so obvious it’s not even entertaining. I was worried that the Creepy tales would be along those lines and was delighted to find that that wasn’t the case.
In fact, this book had some incredibly unique stories that I’ve never seen anywhere else which is really saying something. In that regard, these stories reminded me of The Twilight Zone because there was such a variety of stories being told, which is all the more impressive when you think that one guy was writing most of them.
But, the real eye-opening aspect of this book was introducing me to some classic comic book artists that I’m not very familiar with. Classic guys like Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and Joe Orlando came in ready to rock as did Frank Frazetta whose gnarly style fits perfectly with those vets (not that he was any rookie by this point, but you get my meaning). The one artist that really blew me away, though, was Gray Morrow. His work has such depth and quality to it that you almost wonder if these were more modern stories slid into these others from the mid 60s. I’m so intrigued by him that I want to check out books like Orion and Space: 1999, which both happen to be on my Amazon Wish List if anyone wants to get me a little something.
Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pretty darn far away from reviewing these supposedly Halloween-themed books in a timely fashion, but I’m enjoying this mix of books still and will continue on until I find myself distracted by something else. I’m partway through the Wally Wood book and about a third of the way through The Fall right now, so maybe I’ll actually finish this one out before the end of the year (but probably not).
I knew I hadn’t been doing very well on the most recent Ambitious Reading List, but then I checked the blog and realized I started it back in November of last year and have only since read three and a half of the books. So, with Halloween in the offing, I figured it was about time to toss that one aside and start a brand new one, this time with more of a focus.
So, I now have nine books that I’m trying to read this month. It probably won’t happen because I’m a damn slow reader, but why not give it a shot, right? Here’s the basic rundown.
The Listeners by Christopher Pike. I was a huge fan of Pike’s young adult books as a kid and figured I’d give one of his adult titles a read. I actually stumbled upon this used book store purchase while looking for the next book in the pile, but it felt appropriate to check out this month.
Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice. This is one of two re-reads on the pile this time around. I can’t remember the first time I read this book, probably late grade school or high school, but I’m curious to get back to it and then give the adaptation another watch.
The Shining by Stephen King. You might not be able to see my Kindle on the pile, but I assure you it’s there. I read this book in high school then lent it to a guy I worked with at the bagel shop when I was 16. He got fired and I never saw him again. So, it’s been quite a while since I’ve given it a read. I will follow this one up by watching all of Kubrick’s film version FOR THE FIRST TIME! By the way, it’s only $4 for Kindle right now!
Vicious Circle by Mike Carey. This is the second Felix Castor novel from Carey. I used to interview him all the time for Wizard and really enjoyed the first installment The Devil You Know. The book explores a world where everyone knows ghosts exist and have to deal with them on a regular basis.
The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Since reading The Strain, I’ve actually been able to get my hands on the other two books in the series at Barnes & Noble for less than cover price of one book! I’m really curious to see where this story goes and hope to read all three installments before the TV show premieres.
The Dead Boy Detectives by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Talbot. I read this Sandman spinoff series once before and am a big fan of Brubaker’s. While looking at my trade shelf, it seemed like a good fit for the theme.
Eerie Crime & Horror by Wally Wood. I fell in love with Wally Wood’s artwork after reading Weird Science Volume 2 and have been on the hunt for more of his work since then. I picked this book up earlier this year and figured now’s as good a time as any to finally read it (or possibly just scan it for the pretty pictures depending on how good the writing is).
Creepy Archives Volume 1. Featuring stories by some of the greatest artists in the comics business, I’ve been sitting on this book for years. It’s about darn time I finally sit down and have some fun with it.
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th by Peter M. Bracke. No kidding, I have a whole shelf filled with coffee table books I’ve never read. This oral history of one of the all-time greatest slasher franchises is one of them and seemed like a good non-fiction entry in the list.
Alright gang, so here goes. Hopefully this stack o’ books will get read more efficiently than the other. I’m already working on two of them right now, so I’m thinking it won’t be too long before the first review goes up.
My buddies who work on the Marvel Super Heroes What The–?! banged out another hit today over on Marvel.com with this Twilight parody using the Marvel Legends Monsters box set from a few years back. Well done sirs! If you don’t laugh at Dracula’s line “These kids today with their emo vampires and too-tight trousers” you’re out of your mind.
I can’t say I have a personal problem with Twilight because it hasn’t affected me in any kind of personal way. I can only say that the chaste vampire craze is a bit weird, that’s not how Sita, the star of Christopher Pike’s book series The Last Vampire rolled.