Serial Killers sell. The publishing industry is saturated with them from Hannibal Lecter to Dexter Morgan. But let’s not confuse the cunning serial killers of popular fiction with the depraved maniacs of slasher fiction. The following books do not contain sophisticated killers engaged in cat and mouse games with their victims and the police in order to fulfill some complex agenda. The driving motive for these killers is to slaughter as many innocent victims in ways that are both brutal and stunningly creative. More Gainesville Ripper than Ted Bundy.
Curse of the Reaper (2022) – Brian McAuley
Howard Browning is beginning to feel his age. It has been decades since he provoked fear in audiences worldwide playing the Reaper in the 80’s Night of the Reaper horror franchise. Although Howard hasn’t starred in a Reaper film this millennium he can still count on his loyal fans to seek out his autograph at the horror conventions his agent keeps booking for him. What Howard really wants though is to act. Unfortunately Hollywood has not been knocking down his door and a current diagnosis of early onset dementia isn’t helping his cause. As Howard considers what his life may or may not have left for him he learns that the original producer of Night of the Reaper has a reboot in the works. And he never even considered giving Howard a call.
Trevor Mane’s life up to this point has read like an after school special warning of the pitfalls that devour child actors. He’s all three Drummond kids rolled into one. Adorable sitcom star. Check. Drug Addict. Check. Police record. Check. Headed to an early grave. Check. For every misstep Trevor makes, the internet is there to document it. His notoriety, youth, and good looks are what get him cast as the new Reaper in the upcoming reboot. In fact, the producers are so convinced that Trevor is the next Robert Downey Jr. that he doesn’t even have to audition for the role. At least, not until Howard Browning shows up.
As far as Howard is concerned he was and is the ONLY actor capable of playing Lester Jensen, the hapless farmhand whose tragic backstory turns him into a monster hellbent on murdering any teenager that comes within a mile of his farm. It was Howard’s devotion to the role that made Lester more than just the next Freddy Krueger. There is no other actor, especially not a washed up has-been child actor like Trevor Mane, who can bring the Reaper to life. Literally. As Howard and Trevor spar over who will be the next Reaper, each is consumed by the character in ways that no one ever saw coming. No one, that is, except for the Reaper himself.
The Final Girl Support Group (2021) – Grady Hendrix
Lynette Tarkington has been living in fear ever since the night a random madman entered her home and tried to kill her. Safety and security has become her obsession. Lynette has created a life that never requires her to leave the confines of her apartment. Except for those annoying group therapy meetings. Psychiatrist Dr. Carol Elliot has devoted her career to helping and understanding female survivors of mass murder, because in this world the horrors relegated to fiction are very, very real. The support group Dr. Elliot has created for her clients consists of five women who have endured and survived unspeakable violence. For nearly two decades these women, including Lynette, have found comfort in knowing they are not alone.
The sense of safety that Lynette has so viciously fought for is shattered when one of the support group members misses a meeting. It is soon discovered that not only does Adrienne Butler no longer qualify as a final girl, but a new final girl has been created in her place. Always one to give into her paranoia, Lynette is convinced that someone is after the women in her group and the remaining survivors are the only ones able to keep their newest member safe. When an attack occurs on her fortress Lynette is faced with the terrifying reality that all of her meticulous escape plans won’t be enough to save her. She will need to rely on her fellow survivors if she wants to make it out of the killer’s crosshairs alive.
My Heart is a Chainsaw (2021) – Stephen Graham Jones
The tiny town of Proofrock, nestled high in the mountains of Idaho, has a history. Its claim to fame is the massacre that occurred at a site now known as Camp Blood 50 years earlier. Many of the locals hope to shed the town’s sinister reputation with the building of Terra Nova, a luxury community meant to attract the rich and famous to their isolated mountain retreat. Unfortunately, shedding the past is not going to prove so easy for the citizens of Proofrock.
Jennifer “Jade” Daniels is an outcast in a town full of outcasts. She lives and breathes horror movies to the point of religious fervor. Jade has spent her life preparing for the evil she knows is coming. She also knows that she herself is not final girl material. Final girls are clean and pure. They do not sense the danger coming for them until it hits them in the face. When a body is discovered in Proofrock Jade knows that it is the work of the slasher she has been waiting for all of her life. Jade knows how to defeat a homicidal maniac, but will she find her perfect final girl before more bodies start piling up?
Slasher Fiction’s Finest
2021 was the year that saw slasher fiction break into the mainstream thanks to both Grady Hendrix and Stephen Graham Jones. Hendrix is one of those rare authors who can seamlessly blend horror and comedy. Not an easy feat, but in Hendrix’s hands the scares are just as plentiful as the laughs. One of the most mind blowing aspects of Stephen Graham Jones’ writing is the way he is able to make his characters both protagonists and antagonists at the same time. There are no clear good guys or villains in his stories. In many of his books, such as The Only Good Indians (2020) and Night of the Mannequins (2020), you will find yourself rooting for everyone. Curse of the Reaper may be Brian McCauley’s debut novel, but he is no stranger to horror. Who better to create a supernatural slasher than a screenwriter with a degree in creative writing and horror theory?
Each of these books is an homage to both well known and obscure slasher films. Fans of old school slashers like Friday the 13th (1980) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) won’t want to miss out on these titles. If you are new to the slasher genre prepare for a crash course covered in blood.