The Long Last Call
John Skipp

Leisure, Paperback, 305 pages, $7.99
Reviewed by Steve Vernon

Horror fans have been waiting breathlessly for John Skipp, the splatterpunk poster child. Me too. I remember this guy as being one-half of that dynamic duo of demonology – Skipp and Spector. You know, those guys who posed in their author’s photo dressed up in enough leather to chaffe the collective inner workings of Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. I remember reading The Clean-up as a young man and thinking to myself – “Holy shit, these guys can write.”

So I was definitely eager to read this book and cracked the spine just as soon as the mailman dropped it off to me, wrapped in the appropriately seedy brown paper envelope, stained with something that smelled a little like mayonnaise and whispered dry rattlish secrets.

The cover is a winner and an accurate representation of the story within. The setting is pure B-horror: a sleazy strip club parked like a boil on the rear end of nowhere. A place where we can all curl up around a dirty glass of cheap brainblast, suck on the ambient tobacco fumes, watching as the hired women peel down into their au natural. Then we all let go of that poise and artifice and let the skin of civilization peel away while we settle back and rock on; a pre-Bedrock voyeur huddled in the glow of the campfire, nervously fiddling with his war club.

And then something bad walks in. There’s a stranger in town, a stranger with a briefcase full of tainted money. Is it the devil? A demon? Who the fuck cares? The Long Last Call is a fun dark ramble through the scuzziest booze-up in existence as a pack of lost souls seek a redemption that seems far out of sight, hiding somewhere behind a cocktease of a sunrise that just ain’t ever gonna come.

The book is a little weak in spots. It reads like the novelization of a movie script that it actually is. And I have to say that Skipp’s penchant for one-sentence paragraphs wears a little thin for this reader.

After awhile it felt a little forced.

A little artificial.

As if I were listening to a storyteller.

With asthma.

Aside from this one technical foible The Long Last Call has the bare bones of a solid novel and is worth the read. The bonus novella, Conscience, is definitely a solid read and worth the cover price alone.

The Hollower
Mary SanGiovanni

Leisure, Paperback, 308 pages, $8.99
Reviewed by Steve Vernon

Let’s get comfortable, shall we?

The Hollower is definitely old school horror and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’s a good old fashioned novel of a monster and I always welcome that back-to-bare-bones-and-flint-knives approach to the genre.

The Hollower starts with a bang and continues to rumble. The novel tells the story of a group of people being haunted by a mysterious creature who seems to live off of fear or perhaps something darker than that. The monster usually appears as a faceless man in a Humphrey Bogart trench coat and fedora. The creature is a shape shifter and a mimic and is seemingly unstoppable. What is it? We’re never quite clear and I believe it would have been a mistake to feed us too much back story.

The characters who are being hunted and haunted by this creature are all folks who have crawled through the gutters of life. We have Erik, wrestling a cocaine monkey from off his back; Cheryl, a bar maid with a history of sexual mistreatment; Dave, a recovering alcoholic and his mentally handicapped baby sister; and Sean, a young boy who must cope with his father’s untimely suicide – apparently prompted by the Hollower.

This is SanGiovanni’s first novel and as such bears all of the clunky slimy undiapered potential of most first novels. Still it’s a damn fine read. SanGiovanni has an amazing eye for the visceral. Some of her scenes are absolutely unbelievable. The book has the feel of a streamlined version of Stephen King’s It and the pacing of Bentley Little at his fighting weight. Pick it up and read it. You won’t be disappointed.

I recommend it.

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