Book Review: The Hoodoo Man by Steve Harris

The Hoodoo ManThe Hoodoo Man by Steve Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Budgie as a weapon? Sure, why not.

Danny Stafford was an ordinary kid until his brother shot him in the face. It was an accident that changed Danny, but it isn’t until his 30s that the change fully takes hold. Now in a stable relationship, renovating a house, and working a dead-end job, Danny’s life is turned upside down. And that’s before the Hoodoo Man starts coming for him.

Back in my formative years, the local librarian introduced me to the adult section of the library after I’d read everything on offer for young adults and kids. This novel, The Hoodoo Man, was the first she pulled off of the shelf for me to try. A brand new horror novel by a UK author. Bit of a leap. But I was hooked. I clearly remember devouring this book, to the point that I missed at least one meal.

Twenty-six years later I wanted to test if my memory of this novel held up. Was The Hoodoo Man as good all these years later, or was I just an impressionable kid who had just discovered his first horror novel? Oh, it stands up alright. It has aged very well and I wasn’t disappointed at all. My immediate response upon finishing was to exclaim “Well, I’m going to have to find more of Steve Harris’ books.”

This is where this story becomes interesting. The Hoodoo Man was Steve’s third novel and it was his most successful, it put him on the map, and became his website’s name. But his career was all but over by the time his seventh novel was released and he retired at the end of the 90s. His career came to an end after his publisher was bought out and he was dumped. He had one completed novel he was shopping around, another in the works, and a third that had originally been intended as his sixth novel but was deemed too terrifying*. Harris’ novels went out of print and after no success in finding a new publisher, he retired from writing and ran to the hills**.

In this day and age, a writer in this situation would probably take their back-catalog and self-publish, then release their new material. Of course, a publisher would be unlikely to let an author go out of print. But it does make me wonder how many authors are in a sense lost to us because of the machinations of the publishing world. I guess they won’t be getting any money from me*** hunting down Harris’ back-catalog in the secondhand stores.

*The Switch was an attempt by Steve to bring the reader as close to feeling actual pain as possible. Back when his website was active I read an excerpt and can confirm that he succeeded. I have never looked at liver the same since.
**This bad reference to Iron Maiden’s bass player of the same name brought to you by the number 666.
***Obviously, Steve won’t be either.
http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk/kinter…

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Book vs Movie: The Thing – What’s the Difference?

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In this month’s What’s the Difference the CineFix team have covered the horror classic The Thing.

Did you realise that The Thing was based on a book/novella? No? Me neither.

Obviously, I don’t have much to add to the video this month. I haven’t read Who Goes There? by John W Campbell Jr. I’m not even that big a fan of the original movie. The less said about the 2011 prequel the better.

Guess that’s all I have to say then.

Yep.

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Book Review: The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft

The Call of CthulhuThe Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why choose the lesser evil? Vote Cthulhu.

Francis Thurston starts fossicking through his uncle’s things and discovers some notes and a carving. Fascinated, he searches high and low to uncover the origins of the carving. Soon he is traversing the world to uncover a cult and the being they worship. Things only get better from there on in.

It is hard to review a classic work of fiction. Usually, there are only a few paths open to you:
1) Fawning sycophancy;
2) A belligerent dismissal of the work as rubbish which avoids engaging in anything other than superficial comment;
3) Overly detailed comment and critique that ends up being worthy of a Masters dissertation that no-one will bother reading and just assume you did #2 (i.e. a complete waste of time);
4) A review that is clearly based on having watched the movie adaptation.

The reasons that this is a hugely influential work are clear. The mystery being uncovered with a slow reveal. The dense and subtle narrative. The gradual rise in tension as we come to the realisation. It is also a bleak comment on human existence and our insignificance. But there is also the use of the memoir narrative that appears to have been very popular in speculative fiction in the past. For me, this style removes both the narrator and the reader from the events of the story, which removes much of the tension and emotion.

I feel comfortable saying my rating is “good but not great” because Lovecraft himself described this as a middling effort.

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Book vs Movie: Stephen King’s It – What’s the Difference?

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With the release of the new movie adaptation of Stephen King’s It, unsurprisingly this month’s What’s the Difference? from CineFix is covering the book vs the 1990 mini-series.

The It mini-series come out on video – yes VHS, yes I am old – when I was just at the start of my teenage years. The adolescent characters facing the genuinely scary Pennywise was too much for me. Tim Curry’s portrayal of the demonic clown left me sleepless for a week. It is the only movie to have ever had this much of an impact on me.

I mean Pennywise is already a scary clown. But he turns into a giant nope. In Australia we’re wary of tiny nopes. A giant nope is a ticket to nightmares.

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So guess what book I refuse to read and which recent adaptation I won’t be watching.*

Although, apparently the new movie is genuinely good:

*Yeah, I know, I probably wouldn’t find it scary now. I probably will eventually read the novel and watch the new movie. Maybe.

Book Review: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

The Dead ZoneThe Dead Zone by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are some authors who are so far beyond reviews that it is almost an insult to review their work. Stephen King is one of those authors. Hope he doesn’t mind the insult…

Is there really much point in giving a brief introduction to The Dead Zone? It was a TV show, a movie, a bestselling book, and has been in print for almost as long as I’ve been alive. The only thing I feel the need to point out is that despite being a Stephen King novel this is not a horror story. I know King has a wide palate now, but his early work and reputation was built upon the horror genre. With the title as it is and a story about a psychic trying to stop Armageddon, you could be forgiven for stepping into this novel expecting a horror novel. Give me a break, I didn’t read the blurb or any reviews.

The supernatural elements of this story disguise a tale of living life after a setback (car crash and coma). Cut the finale and downplay the psychic angle (maybe drop the aspects that resemble plot development as well) and you have a literary novel. It is these extra elements that make this story worth reading whilst making it a very human novel to read. This is certainly a great example of King’s work and demonstrates why he has been a bestselling author for 40 years.

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