(Editor’s note: DOUBLE FEATURE is a column where I read at least two horror books per month in 2020 and review them for my website.)
The 2020 novel Allison is one of Splatterpunk Award-winning author Jeff Strand’s best character creations. I personally liked that Allison is 45 years old. I don’t know many 45-year-old women who receive top billing in a horror novel. An introvert by necessity, Allison spends her life trying to keep a social distance from society while trying to keep her emotions in check. Why? Read the stunningly tragic prologue to find out for yourself. I can tell you that Allison has an uncontrollable telekinetic ability sparked by emotion and stress. When Allison’s pulse races, she can unintentionally break bones and rip off limbs. She’s like Stephen King’s Carrie if Carrie never went to the prom and decided to live a life of solitude with her secret under wraps. For her part, Allison attempts to stay safely detached from society, but fate intervenes when a chance encounter with a low-level hitman and his pregnant wife sets a dangerous sequence of events in motion. Strand drops in a dash of potential romance in Allison but you can barely taste it over the bold flavors of fast-paced intensity, suspense, and violence that propel yet another outstanding effort by the Atlanta author.
The House by the Cemetery
With The House by the Cemetery, Bram Stoker Award-winning author John Everson delivers the perfect Halloween treat for fans of gore-splashed ’70s and ’80s horror. Released in 2018 by Flame Tree Press, The House by the Cemetery is vintage Everson, with a plot fueled by sex and violence. One of the novel’s interesting aspects is the main character, Mike Kostner, who’s more loser than protagonist. Divorced because his wife cheated on him, Kostner is an average, beer-guzzling, blue-collar guy who’s struggling with finances. To pay the rent, Mike has to accept a job repairing an old haunted house in time to open as a new Halloween attraction in October. Mike gets distracted from his work by a pair of strange girls, including the young, attractive Katie. Soon, his obsession with Katie is central to the plot and to the lives of the attendees walking through the haunted house. Several supporting characters are introduced, including a couple of paranormal investigators and a team of diehard horror fans tapped to prep the haunted house. Pop culture horror references abound. In fact, The House by the Cemetery is also the name of a 1981 Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci. The novel’s setting is Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, an actual location in Illinois rumored to be haunted. Using the cemetery’s history as inspiration, Everson transforms the haunted house into the scene of an epic Halloween night massacre in the final act. The House by the Cemetery reads like a love letter to horror fans … but a love letter written in blood.
May’s DOUBLE FEATURE: Witching Hour Theatre by Jonathan Janz and Closing Costs by Wesley Southard.