Giant man-eating rats! Killer kids! Satanic possession! Masked Serial Killers! Evil Nazi gnomes!
What do all these have in common, you ask? They are some of the plot points in a few of the insane horror novels to come out in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Grady Hendrix (My Best Friend’s Exorcism, Horrorstor) gives us a brief history of an often overlooked aspect of the horror genre, the horror novel, in his book Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of 70’s and 80’s Horror Fiction (Quirk Books, 2017).
Hendrix’ book, which I read in only two sittings, is a wildly entertaining tour throughout the often insane world of the paperback horror novel. Rather than go chronologically, Hendrix takes each chapter to go through one particular subgenre of horror, such as the Satanic/demonic, animal horrors, haunted house, and serial killers. During each chapter he highlights a plethora of horror novels, giving a brief synopsis of most of them. Some of the more outlandish works get a longer treatment, but Hendrix leaves no stone unturned when it comes to exploring the ghastly content of some of the best horror fiction you’ve never heard of.
Hendrix writing style is incredibly informative, and often hilarious. You can tell that he has a passion for his work, and is extremely knowledgeable. Part of what makes Paperbacks from Hell such a treasure is that it brings to the forefront some classic horror fiction that has long been forgotten. He doesn’t only go through the more well known Stephen King or Dean Koontz novels, he also makes us aware of some other marvelous works we’d never have known about otherwise, really making the reader wish he had access to all of them.
While Hendrix’ text is the meat of the book, it comes accompanied by some of the greatest cover images I have ever seen. Almost every page is overflowing with macabre, ghastly cover art that is truly spellbinding. In full color, each image shows the technical detail in these artful masterpieces. There were many books I wanted to read simply because of the cover! He also provides some biographies of various artists, so that if the reader wishes to look up more of their where he can do so. The kinds of cover art we see laid out here is akin to the kind we used to see lining the shelves in the horror section of the local video rental store.
All in all, I’d say this book is a must for fans of the horror genre. Even those who don’t often find themselves sitting on the couch with a book in their hand would find Grady Hendrix latest work of great value. It took me only two days to read it, and the whole way I compiled a list of novels to read this year. Thanks to Hendrix, I have declared 2018 (for me) the Year of the Horror Novel.No true fan of the horror genre should be found without this book on their bookshelf or coffee table!