Monday, April 04, 2011

The Black Train, by Edward Lee

(pb; 2009)

From the back cover:

"Welcome to the Gast House.

"A historic bed and breakfast. . . or a monument to evil and obscenity? Justin Collier didn't know the house's lurid, shocking history when he arrived for a relaxing stay. He knew nothing about the train tracks that run behind the house, or that they once led to a place worse then hell. But he's learning. . .

"At night he can hear the mansion whisper. He hears little girls giggling where they are no little girls. And if he listens closely he can hear the haunting whistle of the train and the cries of the things chained in its prison cars. Each room of the house holds another appalling secret, but the great secret of all rides the Black Train."


When Justin Collier comes to Gast, Tennessee, a town with an especially violent and sick past, he has no idea what he's in for. He checks into a landmark, immediately creepy hotel (Branch Landing Inn, haunted by its previous owner, Harwood Gast, a Civil War-era plantation owner with a penchant for depravity, cruelty and slaughter, and his slightly less depraved family - a rapacious nymphomaniac wife and her two like-minded teenage daughters.

Lee's works joyously, unabashedly traffic - heck, revel - in b-movie grue, lust and other social taboos, and The Black Train is no exception. Those who find Stephen King or Dean Koontz "shocking" (as one of my friends claims they are) probably won't enjoy this gleefully gory, sometimes sexually explicit work: this is not a read for the faint of heart.

There's not a lot of plot twists here, but this is a fun, nasty and twisted blast of a b-movie novel (which screams to be shot as a film), that put me in the mindset of Herschell Gordon Lewis' Two Thousand Maniacs! - only with (slightly) smarter characters and a more salacious tone.

Good read, this, if you're a b-movie buff, looking for a grisly demonic thrill ride.

There is one film out right now, based on Lee's work: a lower-budget, above-average Header (2006).

Header is a hillbillies-from-Hell sexually nasty work that's liable to put off anybody who cringes at brutal meldings of libido, revenge and humanity-based horrors.

If you see it, make sure to watch for Edward Lee's cameo as "State Trooper #1", as well as a cameo by Lee's real-life friend and fellow horror writer, Jack Ketchum, as "State Trooper #2".

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