Rick Hautala and James Herbert RIP

portraitIn the month of March we sadly lost two big names in the field of horror literature. James Herbert passed away on March 20th and Rick Hautala passed away on March 21st, leaving behind some great horror novels. Back in the 1980s horror was one of the biggest genres in book publishing and you could easily find horror novels on every newsstand. Rick Hautala and James Herbert were two of the authors that you would find in every book store. Since both of these men left quite an impact on the world of horror, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to them.

James Herbert was born on April 8th 1943 in London England. As a kid he enjoyed telling stories to other kids on the playground and also had a love for drawing and painting. At 16 he enrolled in the Hornsey College of Art, where he studied graphic design, print and photography. He graduated and started working in the field of advertising and design.

At the age of 28 in 1974 he wrote his first novel called The Rats which was eventually turned into a movie called Deadly Eyes in 1983.  He went on to write 22 more novels along with several short stories and two non fiction books. James Herbert has sold 54 million books worldwide and in 2010 He was presented with the World Horror Convention Grand Master award by Stephen King.

James Herbert’s books ranged from the supernatural to science fiction but they all had elements of horror to them. James’s best known books include: The Survivor, Haunted, The Fog and The Secret of Crickley Hall. His last novel was released in 2012. It was called Ash and is the third in a series about a paranormal detective named David Ash. To find out more about James Herbert’s books visit his website at jamesherbert.com.

rickRick Hautula was born on February 3rd 1949 in Rockport Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Maine with a Master of Art in English Literature. His first book was called Moondeath and was released in 1980. His third book was called Nightstone. It was released in 1986 and became an international best seller. Since then Rick has written 29 more books and  had several short stories released in anthologies.

In 2011 Rick Hautala won the Horror Writer’s Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. He also served terms as Vice President and Trustee for the Horror Writers Association. Another honor he received was in 2000 when Barnes and Noble called his short story collection Bedbugs one of the most distinguished horror publications of the year.

In honor of Rick Hautala and to raise some proceeds to help support his family, several publishers are offering deals on his books with profits going to Rick’s family in their time of need . Some of those publishers include Cemetery Dance, Necon E books, Kings Way Press and Evil Jester Press. For more information on Rick Hautala, check out his website at: rickhautala.com.

Werewolves and Vampires

For this review we have to get in the time machine and go back to 1980 and take a look at  Moondeath by Rick Hatula. Moondeath was Rick Hatula’s first novel and was originally released by Zebra books. From 1977 to 1994 Zebra books was a major publisher of horror novels, but as the horror boom of the 80’s died down, Zebra books died with it. So for several years you probably couldn’t find a copy of Moondeath until late 2011 when Evil Jester Press re-released Rick Hatula’s Moondeath.

Moondeath takes place in the picturesque little tourist town of Coon Falls New Hampshire and follows the story of divorced teacher Bob Wentworth. Bob is looking to make a fresh start and has just moved to town to take a job as a teacher. Bob meets an unhappily married woman named Lisa and starts a relationship and things look good for Bob.

Things change though when a car with a young man and a woman he was having an affair with,  goes off of a bridge and into the river. To the people in town it looks like an accident but the young man was married to a woman named Julie and Julie has some dark secrets. After the accident people start dying on nights when the moon is full. The local sheriff and townspeople think there is a large dog or a wolf doing the killing, but Bob believes the deaths are the work of a werewolf.

Like Julie, Bob also has a dark secret and the townspeople are not willing to believe his story. The townspeople try to hide the fact that they have a werewolf problem but the bodies keep stacking up and secrets don’t stay buried forever. There is something evil in Coon Falls and there may not be a way to stop it.

If you read Moondeath remember that it is a product of the early 80’s because the story seems a  little dated. For one thing there is a scene where a werewolf is terrorizing a man in a phone booth. Also the story reminded me a lot of the slasher movies that were so popular in the early 80’s. You have people dying off in a beautiful small town one by one and no one in town seems to worry about it, until the bodies really start to pile up.

Another thing that makes Moondeath a little dated is the lack of strong women characters. One of the villains in the story is a woman named Julie. She comes across  as slutty and very one dimensional, I think if the story focused on her more and how she feels,  it would have made the story better. The other main female character, Lisa comes across as hateable because she is married to an abusive alcoholic and does nothing about it even though she knows who her husband is cheating with.  I also didn’t like how she wouldn’t  believe what is going on in Coon Falls despite the evidence that is in front of her.

I can forgive Moondeath for having weak characters because in a lot of books and movies in the early 80’s, women were not presented as strong unlike today.  My other complaints was that the book was a little slow moving and there was a couple  unanswered questions that annoyed me.

That being said there was a quite a few things that I did like about Moondeath. Rick Hatula does a great job of using forshadowing. For instance when Bob and Lisa meet for the first time, you see Lisa playing with her wedding ring which tells you right away that this couple is going to be more then friends. Also there is a point after a fight between two boys in a high school takes place and after being beaten up, one of the boys stomps down the hallway, you know we haven’t seen the last of him. Another scene that I liked was one day when Bob is showing up at the high school he sees an ominous looking cloud passing over the school and he thinks that something evil is coming.

I  loved how Rick Hatula describes the death scenes in the book and the parts where black magic is being performed. I also thought it was a nice touch how there we’re scenes in the church where what the preacher was saying was a metaphor for what was going on in the book. Lastly, I did like all of the  male characters in the book but would have liked to have seen more from the villains point of view. All in all I did enjoy Moondeath and would recommend it to anyone who liked horror in the early 80’s.

Also recently I read a short story from Biting Dog Press called Search and Destroy by Nancy Collins. Search and Destroy follows vampire hunter Sonja Blue as she goes to investigate why homeless people are dying at an alarming rate outside a small town in Washington.

If your not familiar with Sonja Blue, she was created by Nancy Collins in 1989. Sonja has had 5 novels written about her and several short stories. Search and Destroy is the first new Sonja Blue adventure in 10 years.

Sonja was only 18 years old when she was raped and fed on by a vampire. She was left on the street to die but miraculously survived and became a living vampire.  She now spends time hunting vampires, ogres and demons. Think Buffy but more powerful, funnier and a lot scarier.

My only problem with Search and Destroy is that I wish it was longer. Despite how short the story is, Nancy Collins does a great job of creating some characters that you quickly grow to like and she gives a good commentary on what its like to be an outcast from society. This is a fast paced story with a lot of action and is very well written, but I wanted more.  Hopefully we will see more of Sonja Blue in the future.