Posts Tagged ‘Quirk Books’

BOOK INFO

Length: 256 Pages

Publisher: Quirk Books

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Paperbacks from Hell is a nonfiction book from author Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson – who runs the excellent blog Too Much Horror Fiction – that tells the history of ’70s and ’80s horror fiction. When Quirk contacted me asking if I would be interested in reviewing this, I jumped at the chance. Besides having one of the coolest names for this sort of book, I was hooked by the cover which features vintage horror covers and an embossed title design that gives a nod to the paperbacks this book highlights. I have always been impressed with the quality of books that Quirk puts out, and between the design elements and the well-researched history from Hendrix, Paperbacks from Hell is another excellent addition to their catalog.

My introduction to the horror genre was through R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark which featured the unsettling, yet utterly terrific illustrations of Stephen Gammell. I remember when we would have free reading periods at school and we got to choose any book the teacher had available, kids would practically trample each other trying to get their hands on those books. I would spend as much money as my parents would give me to buy these books by the armful at the Scholastic Book Fairs that used to come once a year and that was what sparked my horror fiction obsession. Around that same time, I also found myself drawn to the weird, the unexplained and anything considered scary. I was diving into books about aliens, cryptids, hauntings, you name it. I was hooked and that love for horror and weird stuff also mirrored my love for reading, something that I think people should keep in mind when looking down on horror – or any genre – for that matter.

Paperbacks from Hell is sort of structured chronologically, but it’s mainly broken up into sections about the prevalent themes in horror at that time like satanism, creepy kids, animals, and serial killers just to name a few. The section that really surprised me the most was “When Animals Attack”. Sure, I knew of some of the big hitters like Cujo and Jaws and the animals that were most likely to make for prime horror antagonists – vicious dogs, massive bears, and other animals capable of inflicting large amounts of damage. What surprised me the most was the variety of some of these novels and the willingness to take just about any animal or insect and use them as the centerpiece of a horror novel. There were towering mantises, slugs, ants, or even moths. I mean, how exactly could moths be scary? Well, Hendrix is happy to let readers know.

I also enjoyed the section on V.C. Andrews because I grew up around her books. I had never read any of them, but my mom has just about every V.C. Andrews paperback available and I always saw her reading them. I never in a million years would have thought she was connected to the horror genre and it was interesting to learn not just about how her books fit into the genre’s history, but her life too. Had I known that I was sitting on a potential goldmine of gothic novels, I probably would have gotten into horror even sooner then I did.

Besides the incredibly entertaining take on horror fiction from Hendrix, one of the highlights of this book is the cover art that is included throughout. Many of the covers come from Errickson’s own personal collection, but the scans are extremely vivid and high quality and are given as much emphasis as the text which makes for a visually stunning and engaging book. Besides highlighting some of the noteworthy cover styles of the era, there is also some special treats in their for horror fiction fans that appreciate the cover art. This includes cover art that has never before been published (it was either scrapped or altered) and also previously unpublished sketches of horror covers. In edition to chronicling the books and writers that left their imprint on the genre, there are also sections that highlight some of the most prominent cover artists of the time with interesting nuggets of information throughout.

I’ll be honest, I’m young enough that a lot of these authors are completely new to me. I have heard of most of them, but have only read books from a select few. However, that is exactly why a book like Paperbacks from Hell is such an important book. Not only does it serve as an interesting look back at books that more experienced horror fans may know and love, it serves as an excellent primer for those who may not know of all the great and talented writers of past decades. I know from reading this book, it has ignited something inside me much like the first time I read the Goosebumps series. My eyes were opened to a variety of writers and now I am determined to go back and discover some of these authors. I’m also pretty obsessed at seeking out original copies of some of the novels mentioned within.

While the book is highly informative, make no mistake, this is not just a dry, blow by blow account of horror fiction’s history. Instead of reading like a rigid textbook, Hendrix imbues every page with interesting facts and humor that make this book highly entertaining. If you’re a horror fiction fan or someone who is looking to explore the genre for the first time, Paperbacks from Hell is an absolutely essential addition to your library. This is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year and if you know someone who is a horror fan, this would make a great gift for the holidays!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Grady Hendrix – Official Website

Too Much Horror Fiction

Quirk Books – Official Website

Purchase Paperbacks from Hell: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite local bookstore! 

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ppz

Length: 335 Pages

Publisher: Quirk Books

Release Date: December 15, 2015 (originally released May 1, 2009)

Review copy provided as part of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Readathon

I have been a fan of Quirk Books after since I picked up a copy of Ransom Rigg’s debut novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a highly original book that appeals to fans across a wide variety of genres. If you haven’t picked up a copy already, I highly recommend checking out the series! It was through this novel that I fell in love with Quirk’s approach to not just releasing entertaining and original stories, but their attention to detail and willingness to take risks with traditional literary formats. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children utilizes eerie, interesting vintage photographs to bring the story for life and Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör was packaged in a retail catalog format. So when they asked me to participate in a blog tour to celebrate the release of the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I jumped at the chance.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies mostly follows the Bennet family. Mr. Bennet lives in the country town of Hertfordshire with his wife and five daughters. While his wife is swept up in the town gossip around a wealthy man who has settled nearby and thoughts of marrying off her daughters, Mr. Bennet is consumed by one thing and one thing only; protecting his family from the scourge of  “unmentionables” that were spawned from an outbreak of a strange plague that has been a problem plaguing England for many years.

Mr. Bingley is the suitor and he does not have very much fighting experience, yet he possesses a charisma that makes people flock to him when he arrives at the local ball that the Bennet’s are attending. However, his friend and closest confidant Mr. Darcy drew the most attention from those present due to his good looks and legendary resume as one of the most accomplished slayer of unmentionables in all of England. However, he is disliked by many due to his rough manners and air of superiority. It is at this ball that we first witness the Bennet sisters skill at killing unmentionables as a swarm of them smash in the windows and unleash a bloody attack on the defenseless guests. They are not only skilled warriors, they are highly organized.  When I read Mr. Bennet’s proclamation of “Girls! Pentagram of Death!”, I was highly impressed by their choreographed attack and made me excited to see the changes made to the Austen classic. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies follows the plot of the original Jane Austen novel pretty closely, but Grahame-Smith adds his own spin to the story with zombies, ninjas and a dystopian London.

Elizabeth is easily my favorite character from the novel. She is fiercely independent and battle hardened, having trained with her sisters in a Shaolin Temple under the tutelage of Master Liu. There is a scene where Elizabeth and her sisters stumble upon a group of unmentionables and while they argue about whether to dispatch them or leave them to the elements, Elizabeth takes her cousin’s pipe and throws it into the group of unmentionables doused in oil, causing a vicious explosion. As he looks away in fear she simply states, “You see Mr. Collins…God has no mercy. And neither must we.” Although her skills as a warrior and badass attitude is what initially made her my favorite character, she also unleashes some witty one-liners that lend a touch of humor to the story.

There is a cool scene in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies where Elizabeth and her family are on their way to the city and their carriage is surrounded by over 200 unmentionables. While the men who were meant to protect them with nothing more than muskets were being devoured and firing wildly due to their panic, Elizabeth springs into action armed with her musket and katana and shows her prowess as a warrior by driving away the entire herd and driving the carriage to safety. There is also the sad yet darkly humorous portrayal of Charlotte’s transformation into an unmentionable. Charlotte is Elizabeth’s best friend and confided in her shortly after her engagement that she has been stricken. While the signs are easy to miss at first, it is almost comical how blind everyone is to her affliction despite her garbled speech, gruesome appearance and strange behavior.

My favorite scene from the book and the one I am most excited about seeing in the film is when Elizabeth battles Lady Catherine’s ninjas for the amusement of her guests. By now, readers are well aware of Elizabeth’s fighting skill, but it is still a fun scene to watch unfold. Lady Catherine exhibits the same snobbish attitude as her nephew Mr. Darcy and openly criticizes Elizabeth’s fighting ability and attempts to diminish her accomplishments at every turn. When Elizabeth blindfolds herself before the fight, you know you are about to witness something awesome. Elizabeth quickly dispatches the ninjas in truly gruesome fashion that will undoubtedly appeal to horror fans.

While those are the most interesting action sequences that would probably make for great scenes in the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, some of the things I am most about seeing brought to life are some of the settings. London is portrayed as a fortress in the novel with a massive wall surrounding it meant to protect those who live in the city as well and serve as a quarantine from the plague. Though the city has all of the amenities its residents could need, it is a militarized zone with members of the King’s army patrolling the streets. One of the most interesting settings is the burning grounds of Oakham Mount. Places like Oakham Mount litter the country and the plumes of smoke produced from burning the unmentionables can be seen all over England, regardless of the weather or time of day. These massive fields are where people brings cages and cages of unmentionables to be burned in exchange for money. While most of these are farmers or other members of town who simply use the system to rid their property of the creatures, there is mention of interesting zombie hunters known as “Reclaimers”, who set traps all over the country. They mainly capture unmentionables, but have a nasty reputation of intentionally infecting others to increase their payments. I have read a lot of zombie novels and seen a ton of zombie movies, but I have never seen a setting like this and would love to see how it is captured in the movie.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an interesting idea – taking a piece of classic literature and injecting a bit of darkness and horror into a beloved work. I have wanted to read this book for a while because of the hype surrounding it,  but it somehow it slipped beneath my radar until now. Part of the reason I enjoyed this book was that it takes the classic tale of the Bennett sisters, but turns it on its head. They still have the charm of their original counterparts, but in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Bennett sisters are just as likely to lop off the heads of zombies and beat you to a pulp as they are to attend a ball.

While I enjoyed myself reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I was a little disappointed that the zombie element was not as prevalent as I hoped. There are a few scenes that I highlighted in my review where the concept really worked, but often times the zombies are seen as more of a nuisance than a deadly force. I also wish that Grahame-Smith would have taken a little more liberty with the overall plot of the novel. He adds some really cool elements to Austen’s original story that makes it uniquely his own, but a lot of those moments are just begging for more page time. It would have been awesome to get flashbacks of the Bennet sisters training in China, their first time fighting against zombies together or even scenes of how London transformed into a fortress.

Despite the fact that the novel didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had for it, it is still an enjoyable read and I look forward to checking out the film version!

Rating: 3/5

LINKS

Seth Grahame-Smith’s Official Webpage

Quirk Books Official Website

Purchase Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore!