As I’m scrambling to get ready for the Austin Film Festival, I’ve been asked by the good people at Casper to post about some of my favorite scary stories. So I decided to re-post two reviews of great Halloween books! One is EERIE, which is … well, what the title suggests, and the other is DRACULAS, which is both scary and funny, if you can believe such a thing! 🙂
Anyway, here they are.
AUTHORS: Blake Crouch and Jordan Crouch
(review originally posted on June 19, 2012)
Seattle Police detective Grant Moreton’s murder investigation leads to his long estranged younger sister, Paige. The siblings were essentially orphaned as young children after their mother died and a car crash left their father incapacitated. Thus, Grant has always felt responsible for Paige, since the accident, and he mourns for his father, who lives in a nursing home and with whom he can’t communicate.
However, what waits for Grant behind the doors of Paige’s house is way more than he could have imagined. Not only does Paige seem emaciated, beyond his expectations, but the house itself has a strange hold over her. Paige has been working as a high class call girl for a select group of clientele, but when they leave the house, they all seem possessed by a spirit with an unknown agenda.
When Grant tries to help his sister, things turn ugly, due to the strange force within the house. This force not only exerts a hold over Paige, but won’t let Grant leave. So, Grant must figure out how to alert his partner and solve the murders, while protecting his sister from something he doesn’t understand or quite believe, but can’t deny.
In EERIE, the brothers Blake and Jordan Crouch weave an old-fashioned ghost story, through a suspense novel with characters harboring dysfunctional family secrets to make it a cut above the usual horror tale. This book’s thrilling storyline kept me reading late into the night, but I couldn’t bear to look under the bed.
Authors: J.A. Konrath (aka Jack Kilborn), Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand and F. Paul Wilson
(originally posted October 15, 2010)
The intro to DRACULAS includes the following dire words: “If you’re easily disturbed, have a weak stomach, or are prone to nightmares, stop reading right now. There are no sexy teen heartthrobs herein.
“You have been warned.”
Now those words could either be met with a knowing snicker or a pang of dread. Oddly enough, both responses would be appropriate.
DRACULAS starts off looking like your fairly average horror novel. An aged eccentric recluse buys an unearthed Transylvanian skull that appears to be that of Dracula. He does something I won’t tell you (too much of a spoiler — yes, already!) that leads to all sorts of problems.
Essentially, the eccentric man’s actions lead to the creation of another Dracula. But the problems don’t end there. No sir. The problems are just beginning.
Most of the story takes place in a hospital (one that’s out in the remote countryside, naturally), where the Dracula gets loose and starts biting people and turning them into Draculas. Thus, the name of the book in plural. Not just Dracula, but Draculas — and an awful and ever-increasing lot of them.
At the heart of the story (because, this story does have a heart, actually) are three couples: hospice nurse Jenny and her average Joe, lumberjack ex-husband, Randall; Shanna, a biological anthropologist (how convenient) and her lawman/cowboy would-be fiance, Clay; and Stacie, a pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth, along with her preacher husband, Adam.
The book jumps around in perspective from head to head, among the various Draculas and the six protagonists trying to defend themselves from them. It’s written with an almost stream-of-consciousness style that keeps the pace fast and the emotions immediate.
However, the bulk of the story is hardly the stuff of nightmares. In fact, it perfectly combines horror with whimsical humor. In fact, it manages to be gross and incredibly funny. Scary, yes, but in the most cartoonish of ways.
Let’s put it this way: if Carl Hiaasen and Bram Stoker collaborated, they could’ve produced this book.
And, as for the Draculas themselves, each has his own distinct personality and agenda. (Although, I could’ve done with a little less time in their heads. The words “Bloodbloodblood” became less like a threat and more like a drone with each reading.)
And as for one absolutely positively knock-your-socks-off funny scene involving a legless Dracula in a wheelchair. Well, it elicited outright belly laughs from this reader. (Perhaps the intro should be modified to address the hopelessly politically-correct, rather than the easily disturbed. But that wouldn’t be much an intro, would it? Never mind, the intro’s fine.)
Now, without revealing anything specific about the ending, let’s just say that things take a very serious turn right around the time the story reaches the point of becoming resolved. The resolution itself has serious repercussions for each of the couples. And the climax is, in fact, quite explosive.
And the end — well, remember that pang of dread I mentioned? The noir twist on the ending is truly dreadful. And turns out to be the scariest part of the book.
In any case, DRACULAS is an absolutely brilliant example of macabre humor at its best. (With a lesson: look out for those handsome heartthrobs. They aren’t always what they seem.)
And, BTW, total kudos to the four (!!) authors who collaborated on this — J.A. Konrath (aka Jack Kilborn), Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand and F. Paul Wilson — you guys are frakin’ brilliant!
There you are then. And if you think that’s scary, consider these 10 famous fiction stories based on true crimes. Among them are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart!
So … have a happy Halloween. Keep reading!