Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thoughts on The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is a classic. It has been adapted into at least two films, one in the 60s that is pretty good and the other in the 90s that is a steaming pile of crap. I always site Jackson's story "The Lottery" as the piece of fiction that opened my mind to the written word (this is after reading King, Lumley, and whatever schools taught at the time, but getting no inspiration), and though that story had such a profound affect on me, I have never gone back to read any of Shirley Jackson's novels...until now.

My favorite haunted house stories are Richard Matheson's Hell House, Douglas Clegg's Harrow House series, and The Elementals by Michael McDowell. Reading The Haunting of Hill House doesn't change my adoration of those books, but falls somewhere in the top ten. I loved the book, but there was something about the ambiguity that eventually lost me. More than a haunted house story, this was the story of a woman losing her mind. Now, perhaps it was the haunts that edged her mind into the realms of insanity, but she appeared to be going down that road right from the beginning. In the end, I wasn't even sure there was a haunting at all. I do understand that this was intentional, and it sure did have my mind running overtime after finishing the book. For a book to leave a lasting impression is something any author strives to achieve (well, most authors--some just pump out the pulp and cash in the checks). For the lingering affects, Jackson succeeded, and I am always pleased and interested in downbeat endings. At the time when this book was originally published it must have been quite a shock, much like the end of "The Lottery". All these years later the shock is dulled by so many books that have come since, and especially by the film industry. Consider the end to Night of the Living Dead. To this day, after watching that movie time and time again, it still gets to me. It's not so much a twist ending as it is a nihilistic mindbend, just a straight out glass of half-full fuck you. I can appreciate that.

A great book, no doubt. Up next is Stirring the Sheets by Chad Luzke, The Hell-Bound Heart by Clive Barker and several others. I'm falling behind on these, having been so focused on my forthcoming novel Death Obsessed, which is up for pre-order. Only .99 cents until June 19th when the price goes up to $3.99. The print book will be available around June 9th for $11.99 until release day when the price goes up. Pre-order HERE.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thoughts on Death Mask by Graham Masterton

Graham Masterson's Death Mask is a bullet train of a supernatural murder mystery. I listened to the audiobook, but I can tell that this is one of those stories that could easily be read in a single sitting with red eyes when you know you ought to be sleeping so you won't be a complete zombie at work the following day.

Confession time: I have never read a Graham Masterton book. I tried Famine once, but couldn't get into it. It felt kind of bloated, like so many of the 80s tomes, as if his editor said, "flesh it out, old boy! More pages! The readers want MORE PAGES!" In Death Mask there's not one wasted word. This story is tight and you are not going to be able to figure out the twists. The story starts like this: There's an artists who discovers that she has this bizarre ability to paint a rose that suddenly appears in her garden like a miracle.Meanwhile a group of people in an elevator are slaughtered by a knife-wielding madman. One person survives. As more elevator massacres occur in town, the artist (who works as a freelance sketch artist for the police) and her gifted mother-in-law (she can read tea leaves and cards and communicate with the dead, etc.) go down a strange path to discover who is behind the murders and why no one can find them.

Easily one of the best books I've read in a while. Had me guessing the entire time, and I was wrong. If you can predict where this story is going, you're a closer reader than I. The prose is effortless the way a Joe Lansdale novel feels, seemingly simple, but deceptively lethal. If you're going to start this one, be prepared to have the time to finish it, otherwise it will eat at you between readings. Novels like this are the type I love to read, and I hope to be able to write someday.