Your source for retro horror and book reviews

Opus Questions with J.R. Park

Next on our insidious list of horror writers is none other than J.R. Park. If you do recall, we’ve been traveling down this macabre road to discover what tickles the underbelly for horror writers, that is, what kinds of books do dark and unusual wordsmiths keep on their shelves? When it comes to writing, one must read. It is a necessity for the trade in which we like to keep. Reading other works helps showcase a range of talent by not only reading our own genre of choice but also other genres. And when it comes to horror writers, we are often found to have a wide assortment of favorite books we like to keep close-by. And because we are “prolific readers”  we can reach into a deep chasm of knowledge and information that helps shape and adds depth to our own stories. So, in keeping things interesting and to be a bit villainess on my part, I’ve asked my guests to tell us what their two favorite books are and why. That’s right. You heard me. Only two!!! (laughs manically) So, without further ado, here is… J.R. Park:

The crafty author of Reinheit asked me to nominate and write about two of my favourite books.  Since he extended the invitation I have been pondering over exactly which two to choose.  Whilst I make it no secret that the books of Guy N Smith was the spark that ignited my motivation to finally sit down and write I didn’t want to repeat myself.  Nor did I want to write about classics that you have read about countless times.  Whilst I have a big love and admiration for Alice In Wonderland, The Picture Of Dorian Gray and The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, these books have been discussed often. So instead I thought about my horror influences and the books that guided me on to that shadowy path from an early age. My first selection would be House Of Hell by Steve Jackson.  This was book number 10 in the Fighting Fantasy series: a collection of choose your own adventure books with a combat gaming system involved.  Most of the series was set in a fantasy world with the usual goblins, dwarves and elves as well as a breath-takingly imaginative menagerie of original creations.  House of Hell was the odd one out in that it was set in modern times.

House of Hell, Steve Jackson, 1984

House of Hell, Steve Jackson, 1984

In the book you are the central character and after driving through a storm and crashing into a ditch you spy an old house and decide to take shelter.  From this moment the choice of the story is in your hands and you can either knock on the door or wander round the side of the house and investigate this potential place of refuge. Once inside the house things get real nasty quickly.  Wandering through the corridors and different floors you encounter zombies, a hunch back, devil worshippers, fire sprites, severed heads, scary ass demons and more.  At the young age of seven this was spooky fun, made even more creepy by having the submersive element of being able to decide what to do next.  I was so scared of turning the wrong corner that I’d keep my fingers in previous pages so I could quickly go back. Unfortunately this would end up with me marking six or seven sections, running out of fingers and make turning the next page an impossibility. I still have my original book from 1985, horded like a piece of treasure and still love to look over the stunning artwork inside. To this day I never completed the book and vanquished the House Of Hell, but I’ll keep trying. My second horrific piece of prose is the sensual and genre breaking work that is Cabal by Clive Barker.  It was 1990 and although still young I was beginning to read more adult books.  Nightbreed was coming out as a movie and I remember seeing it being written about in computer game magazines of the time.

Cabal, Clive Barker, 1988

Cabal, Clive Barker, 1988

Intrigued by this, but knowing I was far too young to be allowed to watch the film I tracked down the book, discovering it to be called Cabal.  Reading this book I realised horror could be much more than the adaptation of Stephen King stories I had seen played late night on the TV.  Barker offered an intellectualism that I had not encountered in the genre mixed with an eroticism that seeped through the text on the page. I read the first few chapters in my mum’s car as she drove me back from the neighbouring city where I had bought my copy.  By the time we had arrived home I had already been witness to a man losing his mind, overdosing on meds and trying to kill himself by jumping in front of truck, only to end up in a hospital with a lunatic that spouted about monsters before tearing his own face off. The speed of the action was wonderful.  Within a short space of time we had gore, horror and the building of an imaginative mythology. The imagination only flourished from there.  A wave of monstrous outcasts, rejects from society, filled the pages as they banded together for survival.  This was a very poignant sentiment for my young teenage mind at the time. I have read this book more times than any other and the beautiful thing is that I keep reading different interpretations. It was only last year I read that Cabal was considered the first openly gay horror story, an allegory I had not thought of before.  But it fits with the ‘Breed being an underground culture persecuted by the Church, the Police and Psychiatry (something very true for the gay community in the 1980s/ early 90s). Another comment and viewpoint came from the author himself, explaining how it was a reaction of the old, fantastical horror of myth and beasts vs the new horror of hack and slash, human killers. I won’t labour the point any more, but this book has hidden depths, deeper than the 268 pages it is printed on. With a restoration of the ‘directors cut’ of the film and a TV series currently being worked on I suggest you take a look at the source material and read this wonderful novella.

jrpark I want to thank J.R. Park for taking the time to sit with us and discuss the two books that have helped shape how he sees and understands horror. I’ve seen Nightbreed but have yet to read Cabal. I think I’ll be adding a new book to my reading list. Thanks! J.R. Park is the author of horror fiction and strange tales, including both Punch and Terror Byte. Mr. Park is also contributing to a horror anthology titled The Black Room Manuscripts to be released later this year. You can keep up with J.R. Park on his website and follow him on Twitter.

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2 responses

  1. Loving this series, Thomas!

    March 7, 2015 at 7:25 pm

  2. Justin and I did creative writing in Bath together. Hello Justin! Very interesting

    March 11, 2015 at 8:19 am

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