Bestsellers Guaranteed, Joe R. Lansdale

Ace, 1993, 207 pages, C$5.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-441-05502-8

Stephen King makes me laugh.

And I do mean this literally: I have a very high resistance to horror nowadays, and tend to laugh like a madman at supposedly “scary” movies. Part of the problem is a self-avowed tendency to make fun of everything video ala MST3K. But in the case of horror, the source material doesn’t help either: the transparency of the typical horror plot is the epitome of cookie-cutting: An evil concept, a troubled protagonist, a kill-the-sinners mentality. This is essentially King’s weakness: One can easily peer into the intentions of his fiction without going too deeply in the structure.

Apologies if I’m getting too academic, but the bottom line is simply that Stephen King doesn’t scare me, as much of the horror floating around these days.

This being said, I picked up Bestsellers Guaranteed for the wrong reasons: It was cheap, it had a wacky cover (librarian-type dragon lying on a pile of books) and the back-cover blurb was even wackier (Sample: “BOB THE DINOSAUR GOES TO DISNEYLAND: An inflatable toy dinosaur takes a dream vacation… that’s full of hot air.”)

If you don’t mind, I’ll take this occasion to present my “all-time most misrepresentative cover” award to Ace, for putting humorous jacket copy on a dark horror collection.

For this book is almost all-horror. Not the evil-thing-eats-them-all-up kind of horror, but the true, evil, dark stuff that will make you squirm and wince even though you can’t stop reading. I wasn’t creeped out by straight razors before, but now…

People gets eaten up a lot here, but they also get beheaded, chomped, sliced, quartered, stuffed, bludgeoned… Scary stuff, less predictable than King, and written in style, too! Despite -or maybe because- the subject matter, this book was read very, very quickly.

This is pure, undiluted good stuff. I was horrified, terrorized and grossed-out (for you who remember Stephen King’s degrees of horror). Joe Lansdale is an author with edges, a lot of them.

A last word of advice for just about everyone: Read the book during a day with plenty of sunlight, okay?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *