Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Books so frightnening, you'll go postal and kill everyone on your way to Crewe.

It worries me why a person would only read a book to be scared to the point of epilepsy. Or watch a film for that reason. I understand that horror is a fantastic genre - one of my favourite books of all time is Dracula, and I love a good, bloody psychological horror too, like American Psycho, but recently my trips across the country have been showing me more and more of the kind of book that would turn a person to mass murder.

Sat bored at a train station (a pastime, you may have noticed, that I seem to frequently enjoy) waiting for the 11:32 to Pisston, you'll be drawn to the advert posters lining every train station in the country. That's what they're for, after all. They will be advertising one of three things; a new healthy but dangerously awakening caffeine drink; travel destinations around the country ("A long weekend in Yorkshire is not long enough" I was told in Euston station. I beg to differ, on behalf of anybody murdered and left on the moors) and lastly my personal favourite - adverts for books who's main selling point is a high position in WHSmith's paperback chart. That, and the seemingly endless amounts of horrific violence and supernatural heebie jeebie business. I used to imagine the type of person who read such a type of book would be the slightly unhinged flavour of person - the person on the train who's repeated playings of a certain song you can only just make out drives you slowly to the dark recesses of madness over the course of a two hour journey until - YES - you realise it was Aswad, and then you can't get it out of your subconscious for weeks, occasionally singing choice lines in Morrissons. The kind of person who'd think nothing of embarking on a seven hour trip to Penzance without showering first. Exactly the type of person who you wouldn't sit next to unless you had to in case they asked you whether you liked vampires and ghosts, but you do have to sit next to them, and they do ask you about vampires and ghosts. I was wrong. This isn't a surprise really - I'm always wrong about people; I'm highly prejudiced when it comes to perceiving total insanity on public transport - but I've come to a new conclusion. Office workers, accountants, business folk - they're all hideously bored with their lives. Their commute from Crewe every day has driven their imagination AWOL, and when it returns, there remains a wistful memory of the things it had seen while it was gone. "You weren't there man...it was beautiful" it says, as a business proposal is hacked out on a keyboard at 8:02am. This imagination has tasted blood, somewhere in a nightmare after napping on a cheese and wiltshire ham panini on a Pendolino. This is why the horror books work. The commuters have all gone fucking mental. Gentle imaginative mental stimulation won't cut it anymore, they need the hard stuff. The horror morphine. Yes, I like that. Hopefully it can be a quoted review on a poster someday.

The books I'm particularly worried about are of a super-violent nature. Advertisements make claims such as "you'll sick your guts up before you finish the blurb - amazingly ghoulish to the point of complete illegality" and "scratching your eyes out because the memory of what you've just imagined is burning your soul has never been so compelling". Rape seems to have become a favourite, as have action/thrillers ripped straight from the laptop of a guy in Starbucks who REALLY likes 24, but believes it's a bit softcore when it comes to torture and stabbings. Child molestation became hugely popular (in a reading sense, of course) in recent years, reaching a peak/new low last year, when on my lunch hour in Harrogate I saw with my own eyes, a wall of books under the heading "Traumatic childhood experience - non-fiction". Luckily, people seem to have moved on from "Please Daddy, No" (a real title) in search of a more gory read. Hence the invention of what I like to call "white collar softcore vio-porn". Case in point - "Kill For Me" by Karen Rose, which has a suitably dark and mysterious cover, and a snappy tagline - "Kiss the girls and make them die." having not read this book, I won't pass judgement on the content (I am going to read it and pass judgement later however, oh, don't you worry about that) but am instead using it to illustrate my point. It's about a paedophile ring. It is a sequel, to a book called "Scream For Me", and alongside calling it "brilliant", "shocking" and "a good holiday read" reviewers seem to be completely taken in by this world in which an underground paedo syndicate operates unnoticed by the public an law at large. If there wasn't a "FICTION" sign above the shelf in which it stands alongside Dan Brown and Maeve Binchy, I'd be convinced I was reading a New Exclusive Undercover Exposé in the Daily Express. but people love this shit, if you'll pardon the expression. And all I'm worried about is the sheer number of educated, intelligent and intensely bored salarymen who are one sequel away from throwing their book down and knifing everyone on their carriage before leaping out of the escape door and gliding into the night. It makes me nervous to see a stony-faced sensible-looking person reading an "unputdownable" paperback written by a certain "Karin Slaughter" only to easily close it an get on with their lives once they reach their stop. One of these days...just...something bad's going to happen. Just you wait and see. Use that as my review.


chestymorgan said...

Tanya Gold,Bidisha &Hadley Freeman get paid to write & you dont;just not fair..Nice little jab at grief porn there.I cannot fathom what people get out of reading it.

I like an 'orrible book but there's skilful&there's just gratuitous.The wonderful Charlie Higson has written some deliciously nasty;not to mention fucking hilarious books.

Out of curiosity,didnt you laugh your arse off at the American Psycho film?I did&do everytime.

notha essay luv,soz.Peace out x

Katie said...

Don't apolgise, I love your essays :p

I don't laugh at that film - PK1 (or @PK_1 as he's known on twitter) once made me cry after watching that because he waved a knife at me while I sat in stunned silence at what I'd just watched lol

Richard Vivmeister Hirst said...

I love how, unlike pretty much every other crime writer in the world who all generally try to use subtle, 'eerie' titles, Karen Rose opts for the exact opposite. One of her books is titled simply 'I'M WATCHING YOU!' I believe titles 'I'M CROUCHED NAKED IN YOUR LOFT!' and 'I'M BEHIND YOUR DOOR, SLATHERED IN BLOOD AND POO!' are forthcoming.

As for the whole 'insanity gore bonanza' sub-genre, I blame Kevin Spacey in 'Se7en'.

Katie said...

I, for one, would buy and read "I'm naked and crouching inyour loft" because I bet the reviews include the words "unputdownable", "compelling" and "...builds up to a terrifying climax".

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