Friday, April 19, 2013

Cold Grinding Grizzly Bear Jaws: More Zebra Horror Cover Art

More cover art wonders strange and appalling for you, thanks to one of horror fiction's preeminent publishers throughout the 1980s, Zebra Books. Behold the splendors of half-skulls and full skulls, of rivulets and baths of blood, of innocence threatened and demons aroused. Deadly Nature got its mojo risin', no?

Daniel Ransom is the pseudonym of crime writer Ed Gorman. These two covers absofuckinglutely rule, classic horror fiction cover art goodies in effect.

Another pseudonym - one might begin to get the idea some writers didn't wanna be known as pulp horror writers! - Jack MacLane is really Bill Crider. Goodnight Moon is still on my to-read shelf, so I don't quite get the "moom" reference. Blood Dreams is one of those nicely reductive horror titles that really crack me up in their dunder-headed obviousness.
Grim Reaper by the unlikely-named O'Neil Denoux looks more like a pulp crime novel (oh, I spy the initials "WT" and see that it's our old pal William Teason!); The Evil One is beyond generic; The Doll, I mean, horror publishers knew they couldn't go wrong with that image, not ever. Sometimes I wish I could look at their sales charts - did this shit really work?

Author Joseph Citro is a well-respected regional writer; I've got one of his early '90s horror novels that has lots of critical blurbs - and not the generic "couldn't put it down" kind either - but I haven't read him.

Wow did Stephen Gresham get the Zebra red carpet when it came to cover art!

And *record scratch* these two are too unfocused and too overdone, respectively, to warrant much interest. I mean, gimme a little subtlety, right? Just a little now and then. I mean I don't ask for much do I?

Monday, April 15, 2013

King Misery

Always loved this author photo from the dustjacket of the original Misery hardcover (Viking, June 1987). Here I am not even a year later recreating  - or trying to - the same pose for my high school literary magazine, in which an award-winning story of mine was published. Well, "published." Look close and tell me what horror fiction was on my shelves back in the day!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Greely's Cove by John Gideon (1991): Praying for the End of Your Wide-Awake Nightmare

Fairly shouting at you from the cover that it's AN EPIC MASTERPIECE OF MODERN HORROR!, this 1991 paperback cover is generic to the point of meaninglessness: spooky castle in the mist framed by a full moon and surrounded by dark waters, its tagline boasting "It's the place where your worst nightmares come true" which could be said about any place in a work of horror fiction, and author John Gideon has no genre identity whatsoever (turns out it's the pseudonym of an Oregon politico named Lonn Hoklin, the name this novel's copyright is under). Greely's Cove was published at the outskirts of my "vintage horror fiction" dateline, and is definitely the kind of overly familiar tale that novels in the Dell/Abyss line were making obsolete. Still, I decided to take a chance since it has a bunch of rave reviews on Amazon. Maybe an overlooked classic? Er, no.

The small, foggy Washington town in Puget Sound is beset by evil and its everyday American citizens have been disappearing for months, leaving no trace behind. It's up to a regular cast of characters, some noble, some embittered, some doomed, to do battle against an ancient enemy whose evil knows no bounds...

I don't mean to sound too harsh or snarky; Greely's Cove is an agreeable and at times nicely grotesque horror novel, particularly in its climax. Its faults lie in the usual areas: there are far too many King and Straub touches, and Gideon's prose, while quite serviceable, falters under the weight of horror that he's trying to conjure up. Dialogue is often expositionary and wordy; an amateur's inexperience is all too obvious. I skimmed lots of pages after awhile, but fortunately got more into the story as the end neared, because the climactic battles and revelations were kinda epic. But only kinda.

However, I loved the modus operandi of the novel's villain - the Giver of Dreams: he forces the missing people to "live" the vast horrors of humanity's past, unwilling victims trapped in an all-too-real nightmare world. I wish Gideon had expanded on this idea as I found it truly horrific - can you imagine waking up to find you're a serial killer, a Nazi, a Mongol army's whore, a demonic child torturing its mother? And even enjoying it? Ick. I know this sounds terrible but... more please. A more powerful writer could have really taken this concept all the way, rubbed the reader's face in it, got in there deep and true. Oh well. One character really stood out too: a sad-sack boozehound named Mitch Nistler, a mortuary attendant driven to unholy extremes of lust and desire. And you know what that means!

PS. Finally I've figured out the font on the edition at top; it's ITC Benguiat. Designed in 1977, it was used on all kinds of paperbacks throughout the '70s and '80s, and has always been a favorite of mine.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Robert Bloch Born Today, 1917

Psycho scribe Robert Bloch was born today in Chicago in 1917 and passed away in 1994, leaving a legacy of horror and crime fiction unparalleled. But you knew all that. So how about this simply awesome, and awesomely simple, 1989 paperback cover for Psycho II from Tor Books? I mean wow. I'd never seen it till I came across it on author Tom McNulty's blog. So glad I found it! A new favorite, and thanks to artist Joe DeVito. I've never read it, however, and have heard vastly mixed reviews of it - it's not related to the movie sequel at all (which I haven't even seen since, ahem, it first came out). Still, looks like a nice place to visit... but maybe just once.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Peter Haining Born Today, 1940

British author and editor Peter Haining, who died in 2007, put together dozens of anthologies that collected classic and obscure horror, occult, Gothic, and science fiction over several decades, as well as nonfiction works on our beloved genre. Virtually all of these books were published, for whatever reason, only in the UK. Some - if not most - of the US paperbacks:

One of Haining's nonfiction titles that made it 'cross the pond is Terror! A History of Horror Illustrations from the Pulp Magazines. Fortunately I found a copy when I was in high school. It really and truly fed my hungering heart of horror, and it's been an invaluable resource on my bookshelves for decades now! Which is just the way he would've wanted it, I'm sure.

Read more about Peter here, and see lots more of his UK covers here.