Under Appreciated Horror Author #1 - Jack Ketchum

NOTE: When discussing the author, I shall only comment on the books I've read.

For as great as this "other writer from Maine" is, Jack Ketchum has gone fairly unknown by the masses until recently. A string of his books have been produced as independent movies (The Lost, The Girl Next Door, Red, Offspring) in the last couple of years, which have raised his popularity a bit. The reason is simple. He was ahead of his time in writing very graphic and violent pieces in the 80's. Some of the critics even labeled it as pornography. Among horror fans and other writers he became the Godfather of the SplatterPunk movement, a writing style distinguished by its graphic depiction of violence and hyperintensive horror with no limits. The author is still cranking out books today. Most of his work deals with the human monster and what people are capable of doing to other human. And even though the violence is detailed, his flushing out of characters is what makes the reader care. He is a unique and one of kind author who has been nominated and won several Stoker Awards.

My first experience with Ketchum was his debut novel Off Season - it's about a group of people who are attacked by an inbred tribe of cannibalistic kids. I was trying to broaden my horror scope and this guy's name kept popping up in the research I was doing. I picked up the book and read about the first quarter. A lot of set up on character's and scene. The next afternoon I continued and soon I realized the sky was dark and the book was finished. I became completely engrossed in the novel. Never had I read something like this. Once the attack starts on the group of people, nothing lets up until the end. It's one graphic and jaw dropping scene after another. I was hooked on Ketchum from then on.

The next book I read by him was The Girl Next Door - about two young girls that come to live with their aunt, who tortures the oldest one and manipulates her kids and the neighbor kids to the same. This one was difficult. Partly because it was based on the 1965 Sylvia Likens case in Indianapolis but mainly because it's about child abuse to the extreme measure. The book was graphic as ever, stomach churning at times, at how this 15 year old girl was tortured. The novel provoked many emotions, the main one being anger at the Aunt who caused it all. It's not a book I could read again, but it's one that I recommend. If an author can provoke so many different emotions with in a reader, he or she must be good.

Then I finished reading Offspring, the sequel to Off Season. A few of the same characters return as part of the clan made it out alive to repopulate. Another night and another reign of terror. It's worth the read, but it didn't stick with me like the previous two novel I read. Still it has all the Ketchum style.

I've got a couple of other of Jack's books in my huge reading pile to get to and looking forward to them.

Notable Horror Books by Jack Ketchum (not a complete list)
~ Off Season (1980)

~ Hide And Seek (1984)

~ The Girl Next Door (1989)

~ Offspring (1991) - sequel to Off Season

~ Red (1995)

~ Ladies' Night (1997)

~ The Lost (2001)

~ Peaceable Kingdom (2002) - short story collection

~ Old Flames (2008)

~ The Cover (2009)

For more about Jack Ketchum, go to his website

Creative Commons License


submit to reddit

No comments: