The first John Everson title I ever read was The 13th, more than a few years ago after receiving a copy from Colum McKnight. If not for that horror lit care package I may not have discovered Everson at all and I’m certain I wouldn’t be writing this review today. I’ve devoured every subsequent release from Everson since. His palate of sex, blood, and Satanism had me hooked. He is to erotic horror what Jeff Strand is to comedic horror; a master. Everson paints gruesome imagery in his stories, often involving naked bodies writhing in viscera, but he is also a diehard romantic. Ultimately, it is love driving the plot of every Everson horror story. That’s also the case with his latest Samhain release NightWhere, but with more blood, guts, and torture than I’ve ever read in anything he’s done previously.
Mark and Rae are a happily married couple that enjoy a bit of diversity to their sex life. They frequent elicit sex clubs, swingers parties, and participate in sexual musical chairs, but Rae wants more. Mark just isn’t enough, he never has been. “He was peanut butter… but someone or something else always brought the jelly…” Still, being the understanding, and sexually curious, man that he is, Mark is willing to take their escapades further. When she catches wind of an exclusive, super secret sex club NightWhere, Rae is immediately obsessed. When they get their blood red invitation, Mark finds his wife sinking deeper into this forbidden world. How deep into NightWhere will she sink and how far will Mark be willing to go to save her?
Everson offered up bloody rituals, cult behavior, and pulsating orgies in The 13th, but that novel is like a cute little Disney cartoon compared to NightWhere. You won’t just go to the edge of darkness and desire; you’ll be pushed over into a hell of sexual tortures. This book doesn’t have NBP (you’ll have to google that one because I can’t bring myself to type out the abbreviation), but it’s the closest to being horror lit’s A Serbian Film than anything else I’ve ever read. It’s sick and depraved, the kind of book you feel perverted reading in public. I know they don’t know what I’m reading yet I still blush.
NightWhere is an endless orgy where anything goes. This is more than imaginative erotica though; there are unbelievable sexual kinks, vaguely familiar but horrifically distorted. The reader can share the experience vicariously without concern for safety unlike our unfortunate protagonists Mark and Rae and the never-ending parade of willing victims. Everson eases the reader into it though. He starts out with the obligatory whips and chains, floggers and shackles, careful not to get too kinky too quick.
Everson makes a compelling story for how the couple got into this lifestyle so it doesn’t seem so foreign and unbelievable. If you’re like me, it may be difficult to connect with a swinging S&M couple, but Everson paints relatable characters for the most part. By the time you are beyond your comfort zone it is too late, you truly have been lured deep into the rabbit hole.
He leads us into the initiation with pulsating New Order tracks and synthy beats. This is another aspect I’ve always loved about Everson’s writing; his obsession with music. He always finds an appropriate soundtrack to accompany his novels. This dark, drony post-punk sound is a perfect fit for the gothic underground club scene, but it fades rather quickly into the echoing screams of pain and pleasure in NightWhere.
As I mentioned, Everson is really a romantic at heart. His stories are undeniably horror and deal with subversive subject matter, but it is always centered on love and the vulnerability of those who succumb to its power. Everson doesn’t wrap up his stories with pretty pink bows or anything, and he is exceedingly cruel to his characters, but there is still a sense of hope and innocence despite all that.
Some horror fiction fans might roll their eyes at the romantic elements of NightWhere, or at least Mark’s unflinching dedication to Rae even as she succumbs to the seduction of the underground world. Still, all the in between is so extreme, so perverse that I think even readers with the hardest Teflon hearts will overlook that aspect.
Longtime Everson fans can expect all the ingredients you’ve come to love in an Everson erotic horror novel amped up to 11. He goes further, deeper, darker than anything before. NightWhere is a batshit crazy, hot, wet ride into hell!
I found the perfect song to accompany this review, Angry Angles “You call it love.” I got the idea from a blog post about spicing up book reviews by Zombies Don’t Cry author Rusty Fischer. The key lyric is “Baby, when you hit me it feels so good.” I imagine this to be Rae’s theme song.