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Spotlight on: Ray Garton

Books Reviewed:
Game Over by Ray Garton (writing as Joseph Locke)
Live Girls by Ray Garton
The New Neighbor by Ray Garton
Ravenous by Ray Garton

To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.

Live Girls by Ray Garton Ray Garton, Live Girls

If there is a lesson to be learned from this story, it is this: if you see your friend slowly becoming a vampire, don't try to help him or her, or you'll end up becoming the next meal. One of author Ray Garton's earliest novels, Live Girls still packs a punch two decades later, and it remains one of his most talked-about works.

In 1987, when Live Girls first came out, vampire fiction was not as prevalent and oversaturated as it is today, and it was quite a shocker. By giving the subgenre a boldly erotic new twist, Garton instantly made his name with horror fans (including those who were too horrified by its explicit content). The book was even nominated for one of the first Bram Stoker Awards.

Davey Owen's verbally abusive girlfriend has left him and he feels it's his fault. Looking for solace, he is mysteriously compelled against his better judgment to walk through the curtain of Live Girls, an unassuming gentlemen's club located in Times Square. There he meets Anya, who makes him feel better than he ever has and, unbeknownst to Davey, begins to change his life forever.

Modern readers will likely not be as impressed with the groundbreaking aspects of Live Girls, but this book is still a fine read with a lot of surprising scenes. The plot starts with the first page and never lets up until the end; Garton's kinetic prose practically turns the pages for you (and I'm not usually one for hyperbole).

The only problem I had was that I cared enough about the characters to want to see them end up happy, but at the same time, I knew there was really no way for that to happen. Still, Live Girls is one of the more consistent horror novels I have read lately. If you like vampires, you'll love it, and even if you think you're sick to death of them (as I have been for years) give it a try anyway.

The New Neighbor by Ray Garton Ray Garton, The New Neighbor

A warning to the prudish (and an invitation to the prurient): much graphic sex lies in wait between the covers of Ray Garton's early 90s masterwork, The New Neighbor. Originally published in 1991 as a limited 500-copy $150 edition (with extreme artwork by J.K. Potter) by Charnel House, the book was not available to the average collector until Cemetery Dance picked it up for a more affordable 2003 limited 1000-copy reissue. Thanks to them, I was finally able to read this horror classic and recommend it highly to you.

The Pritchards are a step-family who have been able to make it work. George, Karen, Robby, and Jen get along pretty well -- that is, until their sexy new neighbor moves in and begins to change things. You see, Lorelle Dupree is extremely seductive, and she is extremely open-minded about who she seduces. In fact, she is seducing most of the entire neighborhood with her body that won't quit. Her ways are so persuasive that no one seems to notice that she sprouts wings and travels around the neighborhood enshrouded in a mist. If one is to follow Garton's description of the responses of the seduced, that must be some very good sex, indeed.

So good, in fact, that soon everyone begins showing symptoms resembling a flu and become sluggish, exhausted, and pale, wanting to do little more than have sex with Lorelle and then sleep. Conveniently, these are combined since Lorelle's particular brand of loving causes them to pass out immediately afterwards for hours at a time. Eventually, a previous survivor (barely) comes across the neighborhood and tries to inform them, particularly Robby, about what is going on. That captivating statue in her living room has more significance than they think.

The New Neighbor has the bravura of an Edward Lee and the sensitivity of a Douglas Clegg. It may not be for all tastes with its graphic depictions of sex and violence, but underneath the surface is commentary on social mores (a little heavy-handed at times, but tolerable) and, later, the mob mentality. Author Garton is also making statements about modern relationships and what can happen when people settle for what they can get, instead of simply asking for what they want. All this in a horror novel? This sounds almost like literature, but in a form that is easily accessible to those who might not be so amenable to "message" novels, like myself.

Game Over by Joseph Locke (pseudonym of Ray Garton) Joseph Locke (pseudonym of Ray Garton), Game Over

Dinsmore is a slow little town with not much for teens to do, other than going to weekly youth group meetings and the local video arcade. Joe is the current champ of all but a few of the games available and his girlfriend Lorinda is beginning to feel that he likes his games more than he likes her. However, this relatively small relationship issue is nothing compared to what happens with Everett Blacke opens the Hades Video Arcade ("!!Take a Chance!!"). Playing his games is a little too real for some of the players, who see the faces of their nemeses on the figures in the game. It's fun at first, but big trouble awaits those who venture into the Virtual Reality room.

Joseph Locke is the (now retired) Young Adult pseudonym of adult horror author Ray Garton. Locke's byline can be found on originals and media tie-ins, but now Garton even writes those under his own name. Game Over -- an entry in the Bantam Starfire series which also includes Locke works 1-900-Killer, Vengeance, Kiss of Death, and Petrified -- is a fun (if overly simplistic) examination of the temptations of evil and what can be done to resist it. Joe slowly realizes what is happening in his town as several murders are committed with the killers shouting, "I win!" at the tops of their lungs. The mysterious Mr. Blacke (with his goat-head cane) tries to lure Joe and Lorinda into the Virtual Reality room, but their local Pastor Crane, leader of the youth group, teaches them how to deal with the feelings that spawn evil deeds. This sort of sinks what could have been a truly gripping climax into proselytization. Locke (Garton) writes at a quick pace, however, and any flaws (such as a distinct lack of subtlety) are swept away by the speed of the read.

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