Forgotten Novels of the 80’s Horror Boom

31 Days of Horror Book Covers: #27

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#27: Weaveworld – Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 1988)

Not sure if this dude on the cover just won the lottery, or got kicked in the nuts…? Despite the questionable cover art, I dig the gold texturing. The novel itself is an epic of horror and fantasy.

Here’s the artwork under the front cover:

ma_Warren_Weaveworld_1050_591_81_s_c1Yeah, it does look like he just got kicked in the nuts.

31 Days of Horror Book Covers: #24

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#24: The Nebulon Horror – Hugh B. Cave (Dell, 1980)

Back in the 1980s Horror Boom, every child was possessed, pissed, or eating the souls of their elders.

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Soul Eater – K.W. Jeter (Tor, 1983)

31 Days of Horror Book Covers: #23

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#23: The Color Out of Time – Michael Shea (DAW, 1984)

I couldn’t think of a better cover to celebrate Friday. Electrified hobo with six-pack abs? Ridiculous and wonderful at the same time.

31 Days of Horror Book Covers: #17

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#17: Rockabye Baby – Stephen Gresham (Zebra, 1984)

Not only do you have a creepy doll on the cover, but you have a creepy dude wearing surgical gloves and his mother’s wig. Jesus H. As glorious and shiteous as a 1980s horror book cover can get. I’d love to see somebody reading this on the subway. I’d go over and give them a hug.

31 Days of Horror Book Covers: #14

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#14: Dark Gods – T.E.D. Klein (Bantam, 1986)

A paramount collection that is a necessity to the horror reader’s top shelves. I remember finding this paperback at the bottom of a dusty column of old paperbacks in a local pharmacy. Hands down, the best $1.99 I’ve ever spent.

31 Days of Horror Book Covers: #7

Teenage angst sure was a bitch in the 1980s.

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#7: The Fury – John Farris (Tor Horror, 1986)

The novel was originally released in the mid-1970s, and then made into a great film by Brian DePalma (featuring one of the most magnificent body explosions in all of cinema – yes, click here).  Above, we see the Tor Horror re-release of The Fury, which has been given a more 1980s cashmere-sweater YA vibe.

And as a bonus cover, we have the following from John Saul’s Comes the Blind Fury. At first it looks like this could be a sequel to The Fury, but this edition of Saul’s novel came out earlier in the decade. The similarities are striking: the purple background, the whitened eyes, the otherworldly ‘I’ll swallow your soul’ glow.

God I miss the days when all children were evil.

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31 Days of Horror Book Covers: #5

Happy Monday, kids!

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#5: Nightscape – Stephen R. George (Zebra Books, 1992)

When you can’t help but judge a book by its cover.

31 Days, 31 Book Covers – October Retro Horror

I grew up in the Horror Boom of the 1980s when places like Waldenbooks and Barnes & Nobles were stacked with horror paperbacks, each displayed on the shelves trying to out-grue and out-dazzle the competition. Demonic children, haunted dolls, perverted clowns, bloodied crucifixes, toxic mutations, killer insects, cross-eyed maniacs, snake-tongued devils, and fanged women looking more like Penthouse starlets than the spawn of Satan. The writing inside the covers was a mixed-bag – at times the writing was hideous shit, most likely pumped out in under a month full of Benzedrine and rotgut whiskey. But with the covers so delicious to an adolescent boy, the questionable writing was worth it. Years later, knocking on the door of middle age, I’m aching to relive those glory days all over again. So in order to reminisce Halloweens past, and the crude glossy pulp of yesteryear, each day I’ll post a memorable book cover from the years 1978-1992. So here we go….

#1: Night Train – Thomas F. Monteleone (Pocket Books, 1984, cover art: Linda Falkenstern)

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This one throws the kitchen-sink at the reader. We have haunted subway stations, killer dwarfs, mad professors, slime-sucking worms, and a Jack-the-Ripper from the Bronx. Toss in some Lovecraft, some Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a handsome grizzled cop and an oh-so-beautiful reporter, and there you have it, NIGHT TRAIN.

Sadly, that big cauliflower-brained ghoul on the cover does not make an appearance.

Lastly, Horror fans, check one of the biggest archives of horror paperback art at Too Much Horror Fiction. A maverick site that is essential to classic and retro-pulp horror and dark fantasy.

Forgotten Novels of the 80’s Horror Boom (4) DARK SEEKER

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Los Angeles. 1986. Mike Tyler has forgot to bring his pills with him. The night feels dangerous, and one wrong turn will unravel his life into a never-ending nightmare. He must get home. Streetlights blaze a nocturnal blue. From a neon-lit street corner, a prostitute lingers and catches Mike’s attention, her eyes turning to obsidian stone, and sharp teeth forming within the tear of her mouth. ‘The Host’ is always with Mike Tyler. And not only is it coming back for him. It’s coming back for all his old friends, who back in college were all part of the Wyle Group — a research lab that tried to discover the hive-mind through a drug connecting their inner visions as one. But in the end, only turned them in savage killers that opened the door to an unseen force beyond the darkness. The Manson Clan meets Philip K. Dick’s ‘ A Scanner Darkly’. Okay, folks. Sounds like it has potential. C’mon, a late-eighties horror paperback that touches on the Manson murders, military-tested hallucinogenics, broken families with broken dreams, drug addiction and the Los Angeles homeless. Especially paired with the lurid cover – eyeball in a mouth full of razor fangs; a crooked dream-stretched window in the back; and the fat emerald green font raised from the surface in proper Tor Horror fashion. After reading the first chapter, I could hear a synth-drenched score, like one from Tangerine Dream, playing along with each page. I was hooked and had no idea where this book would go. But as I got halfway through, I realized there was a problem with Dark Seeker. That it achieved its paramount buzz with its set-up, but fell short in the actual execution. Not was much happening – there were teases of things on the edge of sanity bleeding through, there was drama, as well as a comedic episode with a talking corpse, but horror? —not much of it. I asked myself where was the novel’s Charles Manson conjuring up demons from a fractured, drug-induced generation of drop-outs, burn-outs and wilted flower children? Where are the monsters? The psychological twists that should have my jaw hanging in dismay?

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Author K.W. Jeter was friends with Philip K. Dick, and I thought this novel may touch upon the madness of the universe, complete with the cosmic twists and turns, reality un-stitched and turned on its ass. Unfortunately, the main problem is that the mold is more ‘thriller’ than mind-fuck horror. I think the focus goes on the the supporting cast instead of the main players. I wanted to be knee-deep in the muck with the Wyle Group, wanted to see what they saw during the murders, and what they saw as the drug crept back into their seemingly normal lives years later. That’s where I wanted to be. By no means a bad book, just not really horrific. What I did come away with from this book was the use of ‘reflections in a dark eye’. For example, Jeter writes of people seeing themselves reflected in the eyes of others. Once or twice is okay, but as I encountered more of these, I felt I was reading the equivalent of a Lucio Fulci film – extraordinary close-ups of eyeballs. It got too much.

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The ending? Well, it’s memorable. Some may find it refreshing, others may find it the equivalent of a cheap shot. There are strengths to the book, and the main one is Los Angeles itself. Fully realized, Jeter describes the endless roadways, the underpasses, the street corners and movie theaters with much color, much dread. There’s a scene where the orange sun breaks dusk and illuminates a commune of homeless taking shelter in a highway underpass. It is absolutely gorgeous. Otherwise, for West Coast horror of the eighties, perhaps the work of David Schow would be a better, more gruesome fit. And if you seek a story of ‘experiments gone wrong’ (in the mind-hive manner), I’d recommend Ramsey Campbell’s Incarnate, a hallucinatory masterpiece that touches on many of the threads that Jeter brings into this novel.