Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The Wicked: Classic 80's-Style Pulp Horror Makes A Welcome Comeback!
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!