Samhain Publishing, 2012,
Trade Paperback, 266pps., $15.00
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
I’m going to start off by saying Nightwhere by John Everson isn’t for everybody. This book is extremely intense, violent, sexual, and horrifying. In fact, the squeamish are not allowed into the Red Room. This is only for the readers who can handle this particular type of in-your-face terror. Think Hellraiser meets Basic Instinct, and you have some idea about the dark contents of this novel.
That being said, I loved Nightwhere.
I knew in the first couple of pages that I was going to be hooked, and I mean that in a painless way. This novel grabbed me by the throat, shook the loose coins from my pockets, and threw me against the wall like I was a ragdoll. I was so worn out by the time I finished reading it that I had to check my body for marks to make sure I hadn’t secretly paid a visit to the Red Room.
The macabre story focuses on a young married couple, Mark and Rae, who need a variety of sexual stimuli to feel satiated and content. They experience this stimulus through swinger’s clubs and sessions filled with light bondage and S&M. It’s really Rae who’s in desperate need for more lovers and in search for a place where anything goes, and I mean anything. She wants to be taken to different realms of unbelievable pain and intense psychological humiliation. But, she needs to find that place first. Mark constantly follows after her in order to keep her happy and pretty much does whatever she wants. He doesn’t need the types of experiences she craves to remain in love or to feel complete with his spouse. Mark does, however, derive some sexual pleasure from watching his wife seduce other men and then experience the sexual pleasures that the strangers have to offer her.
Everything is revered up several notches when they receive an invitation to attend the premier club for S&M — Nightwhere. The club is a legend; yet, nobody knows how to find it. The dark things that go on there are only whispered about. It’s said that not only are patrons whipped to within an inch of their lives, but that many disappear, never to be seen again.
Rae is eager to attend this legendary club of darkness and pain. Mark agrees to their visitation only because he wants to keep an eye out for his wife to make sure nothing terrible happens to her. What he fails to understand is that the flood gates have now been opened. And, once the door opens, there’s no turning back.
While Mark sits at the bar in the Blue Room of Nighwhere, nursing drinks and talking to other people in the same boat as he, Rae begins to get a delicious taste of the many different and unusual things that the club has to offer her. But, a taste is just what it is. She instinctively knows that more goes on behind closed doors, and she wants to experience that depravity to the utmost.
It’s the second invitation that does the trick for her. Rae gets a brutal whipping from another woman that causes her eyes to light up in excitement and to finally realize this is exactly what she’s been looking for all of her life.
On the third invitation (I should point out that Nightwhere is in a new location each month, making it impossible to find without a personal invitation), Rae is invited to experience the Red Room. Not Mark, just her. He has to stay in the Blue Room and settle for some dancing and drinking, while Rae gets a shocking taste of pain and blood that simply causes her to yearn for more. She literally doesn’t care what’s done to her as long as that insatiable itch is scratched.
Once they get home and her husband sees the whip marks and scars on her body, he forbids her to attend Nightwhere again. But there’s no stopping Rae. She’s not about to give up what she has longed for over the years and that now fills the emptiness inside of her.
The next invitation is for Rae only. Mark isn’t even invited to Nightwere. The Watchers who run Nightwhere (think of the pale creatures in Hellraiser with the pins sticking in their faces) know of his resistance to what they have to offer and decide to leave him out of the equation. Rae doesn’t care as long as her dark cravings are met, and they are in every way imaginable.
Mark soon begins to understand that his wife no longer needs him and is ready to give up their life together just to stay at Nightwhere on a more permanent basis. Mark, however, isn’t ready to give up on his marriage, no matter what Rae wants. He becomes determined to save her at all costs. What he doesn’t realize yet is that the only true thing he has to offer is his own life because Rae has now been invited into the Black Room. He will have to be prepared to suffer in the most hideous and painful matter in order to see Rae and to try and win her back from the utter depths of depravity.
Good luck, buddy, is all I had to say.
John Everson has written what I already consider to be a true classic in every sense of the word. The author has invited the reader on a journey into the depths of Hell, knowing that once the last page is turned, the individual (man or woman) will never be the same again. I kid you not. This is a journey where the ugliness of humanity is revealed in all of its glorious, retched detail, and most won’t have the stomach to deal with it. I know about these things and was once involved with a woman much like Rae, who was more than willing to sacrifice me in order to achieve the ultimate orgasm. What Mr. Everson writes about does exist (this doesn’t include the Watchers and the creation of Nightwhere), and if a person is willing to give up everything, a club tailored to one’s desires can be found quite easily in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, and who knows where else. For every top, there’s a bottom. For every sadist, there’s a masochist who wants to feel the touch of pain. These places do exist and in greater numbers than ever before.
Bondage, humiliation, severe pain, harsh S&M, is out there, waiting for those who want such an experience. And, once your hand caresses the soft, burning flame of the candle, there’s no turning back because the person now craves a greater and more heartfelt experience. This is an addiction that’s ten times stronger than alcoholism, drugs, gambling, eating, starving, and whatever else you can think of. The author has captured it perfectly in its total essence of blackness and in some cases, true evil.
I should also point out that John Everson is definitely a master of words and character development and plot. He weaves a story here that is like stepping into a bear trap. Once the trap snaps shut on your leg, the only way out is to either cut your leg off or die in a most horrible manner.
Read Nightwhere at your own risk, and don’t say you haven’t been warned. What’s inside this novel may just change the world as you know it, and not necessarily for the better.