I’ve read a lot of these types of lists in the past, never agreed with many of the books on the lists, so I’ve decided to create my own. Some predictable titles on here, but hey-ho, these are my favourites and this is my list.
The go-to splatterpunk novel (published in 1986) and an obvious choice, so we might as well get it out of the way. THE LIGHT AT THE END for me is a perfect horror novel: great characters, setting, dialogue, pace and length. The whole shebang is awesome. A gang of misfits, who work for a delivery company, find themselves up against Rudy, a spiky-haired “punk” vampire causing blood-sucking mayhem on the NYC underground. One of the best horror novels ever written!
I was brought up on Richard Laymon but, as I read his books long ago, it’s hard to remember them. I recall enjoying FUNHOUSE and (the more recent) NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER, but I think THE CELLAR (the first book in the Beast House series) is a classic. Tourists visit a Northern California town to visit the notorious Beast House, famous for its infamous past, but were the goings-on at the house just one of fiction or does something more sinister lurk in the cellar below?
You might think James Herbert to be an unusual choice when discussing splatter fiction but I think his early books were great examples. The Rats trilogy, THE FOG, THE DARK and THE SPEAR were all way ahead of the splatterpunk craze of the mid-80s. His debut, THE RATS, about mutant rats that prey on humans in London, was written in 1979 and at the time was quite gruesome.
We’se gonna ‘av us a header? HEADER is a darkly comic, extreme horror novel by the master of hardcore mayhem. A header is the ultimate demented redneck perversion. It’s also a highly entertaining extreme horror story that’s produced two sequels. HEADER is not for the easily squeamish! Lee is also the writer of other great works like THE GOON and THE BACKWOODS.
Brian Keene has single-handedly rewritten the zombie genre with THE RISING and its sequel, CITY OF THE DEAD. Jim Thurmond must travel hundreds of miles through a world occupied by zombies, where few people remain alive, in the hope of finding his young son. On his journey he is joined by a ragtag group including a preacher, a scientist and a prostitute. THE RISING is ground-breaking and established Keene as a major player in the world of horror fiction. Fan-fucking-tastic!
JF Gonzalez is one of my favourite writers and I was luckily enough to publish a couple of his stories in my zine. SURVIVOR is his most popular and most extreme. Lisa is a young woman who goes away with her husband on a romantic break. Unfortunately Lisa’s husband is arrested and she is kidnapped by some snuff filmmakers. SURVIVOR is sick and twisted. It will leave a nasty taste in your mouth, but, being a fan of extreme horror, you’ll also feel very satisfied. I remember reading the book on holiday on a Greek Island. Families laughed as they splashed in the pool and a sicko named Animal did inexplicable things to people in the name of cinema.
Jack Ketchum is my favourite horror writer. He’s someone who hardly ever writes a bad book (SHE WAKES), and he has to be in this top ten, but it was hard to pick just one of his books. I love the underrated LADIES NIGHT, the RAMBO-esque COVER and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (probably one off the most extreme books ever written), but I think his notorious debut OFF SEASON deserves a place on this list. It’s both extreme and wickedly entertaining. It’s also the first book in Ketchum’s Dead River series (along with OFFSPRING and THE WOMAN, both adapted into films). OFF SEASON centres around a cannibal family who terrorises a young woman and her friends staying in a rental house in coastal Maine. The family will go to any length to get their prey. OFF SEASON is an extreme horror fans wet dream and there’s no limits to the “family’s” depravity.
The legend of Davey Owen! Davey, down on his luck, visits the seedy neon-lit streets of NY’s Times Square, where, in one of the peep show booths he meets the beautiful Anja, and through the erotic encounter, he joins her as one of the eternally damned. Can Davey save himself and stop the Live Girls? There’s something about the illicit world of the Red Light districts that draws me in, maybe I’ve visited Amsterdam too often, but I find LIVE GIRLS to be both romantic and dangerous. LIVE GIRLS is a splatterpunk classic and I’m sure you’ll all agree.
This one is extreme. Roger Huntington comes home for the summer and spends time with his old school buddy, Tooth, drinking beer and shooting cans. But things take a turn for the worse when they find themselves at the mercy of a sadistic killer. THE SUMMER I DIED is an intense novel and should be compared to the likes of Ketchum’s OFF SEASON. A modern horror classic, it has spawned two sequels. Also check out Ryan’s RATING’S GAME, a horror version of ANCHORMAN.
Yes! MUERTE CON CARNE is great. Imagine THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE if it was set on the Mexican border and the “family” feasted on Illegal immigrants and served Menudo and Tacos, (instead of wayward teens and BBQ sausage). Marta and Felix visit the notorious Mexican border to make a documentary, but Marta goes missing, leaving Felix to try and find her and become the hero. A novel with a Taco truck and a huge luchador, what more do you want?
If you’ve read this article it means you’re a fan of splatter fiction. You might agree with some of the choices, but if you don’t agree with them all, tell us what you’d include?
Jack Bantry is the editor of Splatterpunk Zine. He works as a postman and resides in a small town at the edge of the North York Moors. THE LUCKY ONES DIED FIRST, published by Deadite Press, is his first book.