Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Wicked: Classic 80's-Style Pulp Horror Makes A Welcome Comeback!

Back in the day - and I'm talking the 80's here - I was obsessed with reading all those horror novels with the lurid covers. Demons peeking out from behind the mountains of a small idyllic town, evil dolls with glowing eyes, ghastly ghouls hovering over a baby's crib, haunted houses that seemed to be alive...those covers were designed to attract the attention of horror fanatics such as myself, and generally held a story within that ran the gamut of ridiculous to genuinely frightening.

When I noticed the cover of The Wicked, I was promptly  taken back to my teen years and knew I had to check it out immediately.  I am a bit remorseful, however, that I purchased this title through my Kindle instead of buying the actual tome, as this cover is one of beauty (right down to the back cover that sports a faux price tag from Totem's Grocery and a well-used and battered-looking cover declaring 'An ancient evil rises...burns....kills...').  You just can't get it more right than that.  Shock Totem publications has re-released James Newman's 2007 throwback to 80's horror: The Wicked, and they've done a stylish and commendable job. 

The book itself is a helluva fun ride, too.  David Little has moved his family from the streets of New York City to the quiet mountains of North Carolina to escape a crime that has shattered his - and even more so his wife Kate's - world.  We quickly learn that Kate was violently raped walking home from work one night and the end result has produced a pregnancy that in effect has not only impaired the couple's happiness, but forced the question that haunts David's days and nights:  is the forthcoming child his?  Or the product of the worst event in both their lives?  They bring with them a young daughter, Becca, who has keenly observed that Daddy doesn't seem to love her new brother or sister-to-be.  

They relocate to Morganville, N.C. - where Kate's brother Joel is the local assistant (and acting) coroner - with intentions of starting over.  Kate is sure the impending birth will set David's mind at ease immediately, and as a woman of great faith she claims to "know" the baby is her husband's because God has told her so. This logic doesn't exactly make Kate a religious nutso, but it does swiftly show us that while Kate feels that God will help them through their troubles, David isn't quite so sure.  He in fact, has a sneaking suspicion that the baby will be a mulatto and has serious reservations about God's actual existence.

Amidst the carefully constructed story of the Littles, the author unwinds the heinous back story of Morganville.   Several months prior to the Little's arrival, a terrible tragedy struck the peaceful community.  A demented teenager obsessed with devil worship and the occult set fire to the Heller Home for Children, an orphanage/hospital that housed dozens of sick and helpless kids.  Killing everyone inside, the fire consumed the town's spirit with it as well, and has brought forth an unholy evil that is intent on destroying Morganville and all those who live within it. 

When the residents of Morganville start dropping off like flies to violent and sexually deviant deaths, it's up to David and his elderly ex-Marine neighbor, George, to decipher not only the unpleasant and sometimes repulsive manner of deaths of the innocent victims, but the disturbingly inexplicable acts of the townsfolk.  Walking around naked, fornicating without abandon, and committing unspeakable crimes - all in the name of MOLOCH - poses the age-old question: does evil exist?  Does a demon command an army of followers to kill in his name?  Is all hope lost?

Not backing down from violence in any form, this book just reaches out and grabs you from page one and doesn't let go. This is one of the fastest reads I've encountered in quite some time.  Filled to the brim with the old-style pulpy horror we fans expect, The Wicked boasts a high kill count and a fair amount of sexual perversion, but doesn't become too formulaic in its approach. Though a kickback to the horror novels of the 80's, it never falters in its believability and for all intents and purposes presents a compelling story with likeable characters and a fast pace.
Stick around at the end of the novel for the Afterword by the author; it's more than apparent that he is just as big a fan of those lurid and gory old 80's horror paperbacks as the rest of us.
Not just a guilty pleasure, The Wicked is a must-read and comes highly recommended from yours truly!


B.R. said...

That looks and sounds really cool. Just out of curiosity, have you read Necroscope by Brian Lumley? It's the ultimate standard of 80s horror fiction and vampires as well.

: said...

Just wanted to take a minute to say thanks for the awesome review! Imagine my surprise when this came in on my RSS Feeds. I'm a big fan of FWF!

Thanks again!

James Newman

Christine Hadden said...

B.R.: Yep, I've read that Lumley and some others of his as well, though it's been a LONG time. Good stuff, if I'm recalling correctly!

Marie said...

I must say, I do love the cover. I probably heard of this blog from you but Too Much Horror Fiction is an homage to awesome horror cover art!

Christine Hadden said...

Mr. Newman: Thanks so much for taking the time to read my review. As you can tell, I was most impressed with your novel - it's been my favorite read so far this year! Though I'm an avid reader, I don't post many reviews here on the blog, so you know it had to be good.
Thanks again for checking out my humble abode. And I can't wait to see what you have coming up next!

Marie: Yep, I'm very familiar with TMHF, Will is a great guy and a kindred soul :)

K. Allen Wood said...

Hey, Christine.

Thanks so much for this excellent review! It's always humbling when someone takes the time to review something we've put out, but even more so when we haven't specifically sent it to that person for a review, you know.

So thank you! =)


Christine Hadden said...

Mr Wood: Thank you for reading, but more importantly, thanks for putting out The Wicked! As I said, my fave book of 2012 so far.

And I'm a new fan of Shock Totem- and I like what I see :)
I'll keep my eye open for future releases!

Marie said...

Okay It is official, I have to read this book!!!

Marie said...

Shock Totem sounded so familiar and I just remembered I've submitted there before! I love that place!

: said...

Thanks again, Christine! Like I said, I'm a big fan of this place, so I look forward to everything YOU have on the way. :)

As for other works: Of course I have to mention that there are links to purchase them all at my site...among with an every of the brand new one. Ya know, if you have a free moment and happen to get over that way. ;)

You rock!


: said...

Ugh . . . please excuse the horrible typos in my last Comment. I was typing that from my phone, and thought I caught all the auto-fill errors. Yikes.


Pax Romano said...

Guess I'll be getting this one - I loved those horror novels of the 70's and 80's - this one sounds terrific.

Thanks for the heads up!

Christine Hadden said...

James: Thanks again for the kind words! And yep, I'll be checking out your other books, don't worry!

Pax: Yep, this one's a sure thing. Let me know how you like it! :)