Welcome to the first edition of our new review section at Dreadful Tales, The Dreadful Attic. This is a chance for us to clean our bookshelves, attics, and garages of long neglected and dormant books, gifted, borrowed or otherwise. I’m sure that, like us, you’ve acquired books from friends that you just never had the chance to read. Well, this year I made a resolution to myself that I would finally read some of these novels that I’ve accumulated over the years. Some of them I’ve gotten as gifts, swapped with friends or even picked up for myself, but somehow never got the chance to read.
In my thank you letter to Rue Morgue Magazine I mentioned The Serial Killers Club by Jeff Povey, which I got from Colum in a book swap a few years back. This was included with a couple other titles, but for whatever reason, The Serial Killers Club remained untouched until earlier this month. After all that time of sitting neglected on my bookshelf, I have finished Povey’s hilariously morbid horror novel. Finally, I understand why Colum said “This one holds a special place in my heart. It was one of the books that made me start reading again.”
The Serial Killers Club was Povey’s first novel, as well as a best-seller, and as far as I can tell it was his last. If this guy wrote nearly as much as Jeff Strand there would be a Battle of the Jeffs for best comedic horror author. Povey brings the laughs in this black humor horror focused on a pseudo killer turned actual murderer. While this could easily be lumped in with the serial killer subgenre along with the Dexter series, this book is more concerned with eliciting belly laughs than thought-provoking consideration of moral ambiguity.
Here’s the synopsis from Amazon.com:
When our hero finds himself in the path of a serial killer, he somehow manages to defend himself, and give the blood-thirsty madman a taste of his own medicine. But when he goes through the dead man’s wallet, he finds a mysterious personal ad inviting him to join a party hosted by Errol Flynn. What begins with passing curiosity soon becomes uncontrollable obsession, as our hero becomes acquainted with 18 killers. Their game: to share the thrill of the hunt and to make sure no two members choose the same two victims. To protect their identities, they have all chosen names of old Hollywood stars, and before long, our hero becomes Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. But he has no intention of following the rules. With a government special agent on his trail who will soon become his partner in crim, “Dougie” plans to knock off the killers one by one, from Carole Lombard to Chuck Norris, to Laurence Olivier and Cher. But what happens when the “stars” notice their numbers dropping?
Our protagonist Dougie sure has an interesting weird way of looking at things. For one, instead of just counting himself lucky after a close run in with a notorious serial killer, he decides to steal the man’s identity and join the serial killers club. “What sort of person travels two thousand miles in the hope of making a new friend?” Dougie, that’s who. He also thought this would be the perfect place to meet his future wife! On paper, Dougie sounds like a pretty pathetic character, but it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who is just so clueless. And even though he doesn’t start out technically as a serial killer, or “skillers” as club members call themselves, he quickly falls right into the same patterns as the rest of the members, with a little motivation from Agent Wade. Despite being an absolutely oblivious sap preoccupied with finding love in a world of murderers with mommy issues, you can’t help but hope it all works out for the poor fella.
But of course the road is never paved solid for a man like Dougie and he has a long, bumpy, body-covered road to traverse before he can find true happiness. He has to keep Agent Wade satisfied, make sure the members of the club don’t find out his secret, and win the affections of Betty Grable, the beautiful librarian with big glasses and a penchant for frying the balls off her lovers with a blow torch. Man, that Dougie sure can pick ‘em!
As we follow him along on this crazy adventure he keeps us entertained with his witticisms providing an offbeat commentary of the weirdoes in the club and predicaments he finds himself in. One example that had me busting a gut was when he showed greater concern for consuming wafting flatulence than being outed as a fraud:
…Tony laughs heartily as well, enjoying his joke so much that he farts. I pretend not to hear it but do close my laughing mouth in case I end up eating the fart.
Our narrator sure has a way with words. He also manages to keep coming up with new and interesting ways to illustrate his pounding heartbeat. This is especially impressive considering how often he finds himself in tense situations that result in an overactive beating heart. Here were a couple of my favorites:
… heart thumping so hard that my ribs are going to end up bruised.
My heart break-dances inside my chest…
You may not be impressed reading those two out-of-context entries, but I assure you this man is a crafty wordsmith!
So, if this story is so hilarious and entertaining why did it take me so long to finally read it? I can’t say for sure, but at least I can mark it off my massive to-read list. Any fan of Jeff Strand or readers who like thick, black humor with their horror need to bump this up on the to-read list.
All the books awaiting me in The Dreadful Attic may not be winners like Jeff Povey’s The Serial Killers Club, but I will find out for sure as I chip away at the lost and forgotten over the course of twenty-twelve.