TERROR OF THE 7 CRYPTS by ETIENE AUBIN , pseudonym for British author James Moffat

This the first of the early horror series from NEL, which they seemed to just seemed to start and stop numbering for some reason. This is an early one (1974) so not the most gory of tales. The story is set during the French revolution and a bunch of character of noble descent or vaguely connected and on the run from the Revolutionaries and after a skirmish where some revolutionaries get killed, they find refuge in an abandoned chateau . The cast of characters or the usual ( aloof noble ad servant, a lecherous banker , handsome soldier and lots of  Skellington’s)

Unbeknownst to them , it is a secret hiding place of the stolen royal treasures of Marcel Fournier,  one time partner of  revolutionary leaders Robespierre and Marat.

What unfolds is a gothic tale of terror as members of the group disappear, via a unknown assailant , who takes them to crypts that have various terrible traps and are despatched in horrific ways ( spikes, snakes, crocodiles???) .  This a a cheesy, somewhat meandering novel, that seems obsessed with the women’s breasts for a lot of its time! I don’t think it will win any reward for historical accuracy or characterisation. Saying that, its a light fun read that I really enjoyed. Part murder mystery, part gothic horror. Certainly feels like one of Roger Cormans should have made a movie with Vincent Price Poe movie, with traps as good as any Indiana Jones tale!
You can read more about the author and other reviews here: LIBRARY of DOOM



THE FESTERING BY GUY N SMITH

Oh wow. This is classic Guy N Smith. Also, look at that cover!!!! I miss the early font design, but presume this was under NEL copyright!

Published in 1989 by Arrow Books in the UK. Set yet again in Smith’s beloved Welsh countryside, the novel starts with a instant sick bag wallop in medieval times as a chap returns to his village dripping in disease, boils, puss, melting flesh, etc. Everyone is horrified and try to throw him out of the place. His disease eventually kills him, swelled eyes and mouth leaking god knows what, and he is buried deep in the ground by the villagers who think it is a curse of the devil of course!

Cut to the modern day ( well 1989) and a couple, Holly and Mike, have moved from the city to the countryside. They buy a dilapidated cottage with a chunk of land. The plumbing is completely broken, so they must dig a well in the garden.

However, they dig a hole right over the diseased body. A foul stench emits from the hole and the disease is released again, first infecting one of the workers digging the hole. Needless to say, the infection spreads and chaos reigns in the quiet village. The disease not only covers the body in boils and causes the leaking of pus and slime from everywhere, it also ramps up violent and sexual urges. The victims end up wreaking havoc and turning into toxic, disease-ridden creatures unable to control themselves violently and sexually. It’s a simple story that gently leads us into a tale of tension then ramps up the horror in a confined environment. It thunders along with all sorts of pestilence horror and action as it reaches its grim and bleak ending.

This is trashy, over-the-top, gory exploitive pulp horror at its best. Smith knows exactly what he’s doing here and is on top form. He certainly revels in the descriptions of the festering infected , their weeping slimy bodies, various fluids leaking from the poor victims pustules, eyes, ears , mouths and other orifices.

If you like your horror with all its wonderful, over-the-top pulp characters and outrageous gore scenes, I can’t recommend this enough. It has to be one of Smith’s finest works.

You can read more about the author and other reviews here: LIBRARY of DOOM


ASSASSINS BY SHAUN HUTSON

Assassins is a great book, don’t get me wrong, but apart from spectacular gang-orientated violence, there isn’t as much “ monster” horror as I was expecting.

This is a well-written, fast novel. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an excellent example of splatter punk writing at its best. He pulls out all the stops and fires all the bullets.

I’ve never known a book describes so many different ways a head can explode when blown apart by a shotgun. Honest, I think he must have had a thesaurus to see how many times you can describe grey matter differently.

It’s a book that ramps up the pace from the first couple of pages. The story starts with a wallop as our main guy, Carter, brother is murdered hail of bullets. He is a bodyguard for a gang boss, Frank Harrison, who is having various members of his team and establishments killed off by some unknown rival. What erupts is gang warfare, involving bent coppers, hired killers, car chases, and exploding buildings. The hired hitman, Mitchell, is a great character. I would have happily read a book all about him. There is also a side story about a bunch of cult-style lunatics who are going around killing rich people in various horrific ways because they “deserve it” This sort of ties two parts of the story together, as they go after Frank Harrison and his wife, which culminates in a finale shoot out, knife fight between them and the gang leaders hoods. There is also a tale of Carter, the main protagonist, having a secret affair with the gang boss Harrisons’ wife, Tina.

When the “supernatural “ horror elements briefly rear their ugly heads, they are gruesome and stomach-churning as only Hutson can do. Elements of Ed Gein flesh peeling are thrown in here! There is an example of Hutson at his nastiest best with the male prostitute and the zombie. Truly harrowing and revolting.

My only real problem with this book is the “ supernatural” horror element seems to be the least important. It feels like an add-on because he’s known for that. It’s more like Hutson wanted to write his version of The Long Good Friday but fill it full of Peckinpah Scorsese-styled violence and a mild coating Argento. He does this, really, well. It starts with a mad old priest being taken away from his church about to be demolished and a zombie hand thrusting through the rubble.

That’s it, by the end of the book, the supernatural element is never explored further. I was hoping for some kind of explanation ( spoiler) of why and, more importantly, how these characters had returned from the dead. Unless I missed something. I’ll admit I found myself speed-reading through some of the chapters as I was losing interest in the characters. Apart from the hired assassin David Mitchell . I would read a series of books about him! Check out his website .

You can read more about the author and other reviews here: LIBRARY of DOOM


APACHE BOOK 2 KNIFE IN THE NIGHT BY WILLIAM M JAMES

I was fortunate to pick up a large collection of the Apache books at one of my many bookshops and market visits. Apache is one of the many gritty and brutal Adult Western series, 27 in all, that came out in the 1970s-1980s from the infamous Piccadilly Cowboy Authors. The Piccadilly Cowboys were a group of British writers who gathered in a pub in Piccadilly in London and wrote a series of violent, brutal Western paperbacks in the 1970s and 80s.

These are far removed from the Louis Lamour style westerns popular in the 50s and 60s. They do not take any reference from the Hollywood John Wayne movies but lean into Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch territory. The style and tone are more Spaghetti Western, but with the brutal violence and gore dialled up to 200 %! Each bullet wound could take at least a whole page with its description of the damage inflicted on the human body. The authors were having a great time trying to outdo each other with these!

Although they claim to be written by William James, this was a house publisher’s name and could have been written by either Terry Harknett, John Harvey, or Laurence James. The Apache story is as cliched as the rest of the genre titles, so I pretty much knew the story basics of all these Westerns ( revenge!), I read volume 2 as I have yet to get hold of the first one at a decent price. Currently £45.00 on eBay. You get the basic catch-up of the story so far in the first few pages, so I didn’t miss out on much. I’ll probably download an eBook version. In this one, Cuchillo has recovered from his injuries in a brief couple of weeks ( this guy is tough!) and is out for revenge on the nasty bastard that is this series’ nemesis, the ruthless and sadistic Captain Pinner. the man who killed his wife and child and chopped his fingers off !!! He is going to kill him with the dagger he was accused of originally stealing from Pinner. Pinner originally tortures Chuchillo with said knife ( the finger removal!)

No surprises, this is a brutal, gory, and violent book. It’s a literary equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino/ Sam Peckinpah/Italian Giallo movie, and maybe a touch of Saw-style horror! When the hero takes down a Mexican raiding party, the bloodshed is worthy of any horror movie! The author does not hold back on the red stuff. From scalping’s to eyeball slicing and brain-exploding bullet exit wounds!

It’s a brief read, and all the volumes follow the same theme, but a roller coaster of gritty violet action novels, well written, well-paced, and knows its audience, giving them ( me?) exactly what it wants.

I recommend any of the Piccadilly Western titles, the full, list of series titles can be found on the website, and they are still putting stuff out, albeit digitally now. There is also a great article on the Six Gun Justice website

You can read more about the author and other reviews here: LIBRARY of DOOM


DEATHWORLD BY HARRY HARRISON

DeathWorld by Harry Harrison

I love science fiction movies and TV series from the highest quality to the lowest b Movie exploitation ones with terrible special effects. However, Science Fiction Literature is something I have never really got into. Apart from Novelisations, I have read very few. I respect writers like Asimov, Clarke, and Aldiss, but I could never really get any joy out of them. Sometimes I thought I must be missing out on something as I just didn’t get the appeal. During my time as a Bookseller at Waterstones running the sci fi section, I challenged myself to read some more modern ones. Becky Chambers The Long way to a small angry planet  was one of the standouts for sure. Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler and Behind The Throne by K B Wagers were others I enjoyed very much. However, apart from some classic sci-fi like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and short stories from the likes of Harlan Ellison,  it certainly was not a genre I gravitated to. 

I had read some of  Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat thanks to the adaptation in 2000ad.

I enjoyed it. Several years later I came across a couple of volumes. I enjoyed them and loved the humor. However, they did not leave me wanting any more so never pursued the rest of the series. Harrison also wrote the classic sci-fi novel Make Room! Make Room! Which was adapted into the movie Soylent Green

I didn’t know anything about Deathworld when I came across them in a second-hand bookshop. Of course, I had to buy them because of the title. They had been sitting on my shelves for a while before I took the plunge. I’d decided to try a couple more modern sci-fi novels and gave up, to be honest. These had me intrigued by the title and synopsis so took the plunge, and boy am I glad I did! 

Deathworld was originally serialized in astounding science fiction, then in analog magazine in the sixties. The collected story was Harrisins first published novel.  The plot is based around its central character, Jason dinAlt a professional gambler with psi abilities, who is hired to run a stake up into the billions by some colonists of the Planet Pyrrus.  After success, he opts to return to the planet with the colonists, fascinated by what they have told him about it.  However, Pyrrus is the most hostile world in the universe, with every life form bent on the extermination of the colonists, even the plant life. The colonists have almost superhuman strength due to the planet’s hostile environment. 

What unfolds is a tale of all-out action, alien horror, nature attacks, betrayal, and conspiracies. What a rip-roaring ride it was! A brilliant, old-school pulp sci-fi adventure with some great humor. Considering when it was written, it does not feel as dated as some of these early sci-fi tales can be. It’s also a bit of a clunky anti-war novel.  The main protagonist Jason Dinalt is a really likable rogue and has a great cast of characters around him. It’s almost an origin team story as well, as the books continue up to volume 7, the last few written in conjunction with the Russian authors Ant Skalandis and Mikhail Akhmanov but, strangely, never published in English. I have the three first volumes and will certainly be reading the continuing adventures.

Another great thing about this book, it’s a short punchy read. If you want inward-looking sci-fi about the meaning of the universe, this is not for you. It’s a quick, entertaining sci-fi romp, punching to the end. 

You can find the novels pretty cheaply, but not available on the Kindle. However, there is a really good audio version free on Libravox.  


THE OGRE BY MARK RONSON

Photographer Richard Finlay escapes a failing marriage by inheriting his uncle’s old farm, Calgarth House. A reporter, Patricia Derbyshire, arrives to investigate the house’s mysterious tower and the surrounding legends. As their relationship develops, a serial killer dubbed the Leopard Man terrorizes the village, with suspicion falling on Richard.

After the killer’s capture, the deaths continue. Clegg, a villager with a grudge against the Calgarths, attacks Richard’s home in a Straw Dogs-style assault. Following this, a local vicar reveals the village church’s sinister history and the tower’s connection to the recent deaths.

The novel then shifts into high gear, blending folk horror, sci-fi, and disaster movie elements. The titular ogre, far from a monstrous beast, proves a life-sucking blob, terrorizing the village with gruesome attacks. The story delivers intense action, including claustrophobic tunnel chases, aerial bombings, and a flamethrower assault against the creature. The climax, a gory showdown in the village pub and church, ends with a surprising twist.

While the start feels slow, the action-packed horror that follows makes it a thrilling read. The author effectively creates a cast of stereotypical yet well-developed characters. As a classic British horror novel, it delivers on gore, thrills, and pulp excitement without unnecessary buildup.

The book’s cover, reminiscent of low-budget horror films, perfectly complements the story. It’s a rare instance where a photograph trumps a painting.

Overall, this is a fantastic piece of British horror pulp. Don’t miss out on this gruesome, entertaining read.


Library of Doom