All Guts, No Glory: Grady Hendrix presents even more "Paperbacks From Hell"


Grady Hendrix, Paperbacks From Hell

My goal with Paperbacks From Hell was to present the full bonkers experience of reading '70s and '80s horror paperbacks without any of the brain damage. As a result, readers -- and those who come to the Paperbacks From Hell LIVE experience on Thursday, March 29 in Ann Arbor -- get to briefly experience books like John Christopher’s The Little People about an Irish B&B overrun by Nazi leprechauns, they get a taste of Joseph Nazel’s innercity take on William Peter Blatty’s horror novel in The Black Exorcist, and they even get to try The Glow, a sort of Rosemary’s Baby about a young couple who move into a building of health-nut vegetarians who want to steal their blood to lower their cholesterol levels.

My only regret is that Paperbacks had to end before I could cover all the other insane books out there. Presented here for your education are five of the paperbacks that got away.

Fantasma and The Resort paperbacks

The Resort by Sol Stein (1980)
A beautiful resort in Big Sur sends out special fliers and promotions to Jewish communities. When families arrive to have a vacation and maybe a nosh, instead of getting spa treatments and a shvitz in the hot springs, they find themselves drugged and turned into slave labor on the resort’s secret marijuana farm, the proceeds of which are funding the resurrection of the Fourth Reich. Which is based in Texas, naturally.

Fantasma by Tom Monteleone (1989)
A writer who delivers books that feel like deeply satisfying B-movies, Monteleone serves up a big, carbohydrate-loaded slab of cheesy Godfather-style fun in this romp about the mafia going to war in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood -- only instead of machine guns and stilettos, they conjure up Lovecraftian hell-monsters and pit them against each other. The result is the only “mafia vs. monsters” book that I’m aware of.

Feast paperback

Feast by Graham Masterton (1988)
I'll talk about this book a little, but it’s almost impossible to do Graham Masterton’s nutso thrill ride justice in the space I have. A food critic on a bonding trip with his estranged son becomes obsessed with a snobby French dining club that he can’t join. Turns out there’s a reason: It’s really the front for a cult of cannibals named the Celestines, who regard being eaten alive as the holiest of acts. Trouble starts when the food critic’s son joins the cult, and things eventually go so far off the rails -- dwarf assassins, auto-cannibalism, exploding dogs -- that it takes the manifestation of Jesus Christ himself to settle everyone’s hash.

Taurus and Dead White paperbacks

Dead White by Alan Ryan (1983)
Here’s what it says on the back of the book: “In the tiny Catskills town of Deacons Kill, the blizzard strikes without warning … as the drifts creep higher, a train appears out of the storm -- an antique circus train bringing clowns … and death.” Oh, dear Lord, it’s a book about a train full of killer clowns laying siege to a tiny snowbound mountain town. It’s like Salem’s Lot only with more red noses and giant floppy shoes! Truly ridiculous, it never goes quite as far as I wanted it to go, but when you’ve got giant clowns twisting off people’s heads you have to wonder if maybe I’ve just become a little jaded.

Taurus by George Wells (1982)
Screenwriter George Wells won the Academy Award for his Designing Women script, so who knew what he really wanted to do was write a horror novel this berserk? A band of super-aggressive retired bullfighting bulls go on a drug-fueled rampage across Mexico, having sex with women and murdering men. Yes, you read that right: bulls go on a sex and murder rampage while high on mescaline roots. The only person who can stop them? The retired one-eyed matador who battled them once in the ring.

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called "lies," and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes accidentally pay him for. Read more about him here.

Grady Hendrix presents "Paperbacks From Hell" at Live, 102 S. First St., Ann Arbor, on Thursday, March 29 at 7 pm. No cover charge, doors open at 6:30 pm.