Daniel I. Russell is the author of Entertaining Demons, Samhane, Retard, Come Into Darkness, Critique, The Collector Book 1: Mana Leak, Mother's Boys and the huge collection Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem. Daniel is a HWA active member and represented by the Tobias Literary Agency, NYC. Daniel has also been the vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, special guest editor of Midnight Echo, associate and technical editor for Necrotic Tissue, and Shadow Awards judge.
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Friday, December 10, 2010JOYRIDE by Jack Ketchum
I’m going to be honest in the reasoning in my reasons for buying Jack Ketchum’s Joyride. My cheapness in pages per dollar came into my decision not to buy the very short novella, Weed Species. Looking at the cover and seeing these epically evil plants (and I love my plant based horror, apart from the horrendously frustrating Garden of Evil by Edmund Le Plante – which I hope is a pseudonym!) it was hard to resist.
But along comes Leisure who have released an impressive catalogue of Ketchum’s work, and give us Weed Species as a bonus story with the novel Joyride. At the usual low low prices, I certainly couldn’t resist this time! Let’s look at the main novel first.
Carole is a nice enough, slightly posh woman who has been driven to hell and back by her abusive ex-husband. He really did a number on her with beatings, rape, etc. Now she’s with Lee, and the two are moderately happy together…apart that the ex-husband still pops around now and then for threats, harassment and the odd rape. The police haven’t done a thing, so the couple decide to indulge in some vigilante action, involving a seldom used hiking trail and a baseball bat.
Enter Wayne. Wayne is your town nutjob. In his twenties and working bar, he has a deep seeded resentment for basically everyone and a secret obsession with murder. After a failed romantic walk with his girlfriend, he takes a minute to rest, overlooking the trail.
This is where Wayne sees something he wasn’t supposed to see.
Now Wayne wants to be their best friend and share in the thrill of murder. Carole and Lee aren’t so keen, but how can you argue with a mad man?
Ketchum, as usual, hits the road running and never lets up. The novel slips by and you don’t even feel it going in. Ketchum just has this pace and sharp edge to his words that few can compare with. He keeps the plot rooted in reality, with absolutely no supernatural element whatsoever. The subject of a man who finally gives into his bloodlust in such an explosive way, while some may see this as Ketchum simply ticking his own extreme violence box, is gritty and actually, close to real life events.
It was an interesting read, as at the time of finishing, I thought it was quite a shallow read. Ketchum in third gear, Ketchum providing the cheap thrills, but with a paler moral stance than say The Girl Next Door. Only a few days after it did I start to think about it. Yes, murdering random strangers is bad, but it raises questions such as is the murder of a bad person make it acceptable? Does an ignorant society breed psychopaths?
Ketchum also has the stereotypical cop hot on the trail, but with a few atypical character flaws. A decent subplot.
Onto Weed Species. Now, the mistake I’d made (as I believe others had in the past) was that this was a story about plants. How very wrong.
A very different couple from Joyride, Sherry and Owen are serial rapists, and murderers when the situation demands it. Weed Species follows them over many years, revealing their exploits, the repercussions and how their presence affects the community (like a weed species. No plants).
This is the most rape-tastic story I have ever read. It reminded me of that famous scene from Dusk til Dawn. We got rape! We got date rape! We got anal rape! You like oral rape? We got oral rape! How about some anal rape followed by oral rape? We got lesbian rape! We got incest rape! We kinky rape! We got torturous rape!
Lots of raping. Be interesting to see what percentage of the page count doesn’t have any raping.
Ketchum really lets his hair down here on the pure gross out and explicit details. Funnily enough, just before reading this, I discussed in interviews how the first draft of Samhane was more extreme. However, Weed Species certainly would have aced it in the full-on rape stakes. Seriously, I cannot warn you enough, if you have a nervous disposition regarding rape, do not read this story. I’ve seen readers say they’re ashamed to own this book.
Is it any good? It was okay, I guess.
I prefer other Ketchum titles, but this was still a good, fast read, but definitely not for everyone.Tomorrow comes the review for Jeff Strand's DWELLER.