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The Resurrectionist (2009) - Wrath James White

The Resurrectionist (2009) – Healing and Killing 

/5

The power to heal and resurrect the dead is placed in the hands of a sadistic, tortured man-child in The Resurrectionist, a brutally transgressive novel by Texas author Wrath James White. A masterpiece of the Extreme Horror subgenre, The Resurrectionist is like reading razor blades. From the first scene of a boy witnessing the savage murder of his mother at the hands of his crystal meth-crazed father to one of the most shocking endings in all of horror fiction, the book grabs you by the throat and chokes you for 324 pages.

The villain is Dale McCarthy, a cat-torturing boy who grows into a twisted killer with the power to resurrect the dead. The interesting wrinkle is when Dale resurrects people, they have no memory of their deaths. So, Dale can perform any number of horrendous deeds on others without consequences. It’s one of the most ingenious premises for a novel that I’ve ever read. 

The author Wrath James White is a co-founder of the Splatterpunk Awards, which recognize superior achievement in Extreme Horror fiction. The awards debuted in 2018, nearly a decade after The Resurrectionist, but after reading it, you’ll know why White is the perfect author to co-helm the awards. White has penned many Extreme Horror novels and stories, including Succulent Prey and its sequel Prey Drive, but The Resurrectionist remains his most popular, and rightly so.

On a side note, Paul Leyden wrote and directed a 2014 film titled Come Back to Me based on The Resurrectionist. The R-rated movie opened at 10 theaters and grossed about $7,700 during its run, according to Box Office Mojo. Come Back to Me is nowhere close to the quality of White’s novel, but the film has an average 5.8 (out of 10) User Rating on IMDb. To be fair, any director would have had a difficult time matching the novel’s intensity and level of pornographic violence.

The Resurrectionist (2009) - The Authors favored edition released five years after the original
The cover for the author’s preferred edition of The Resurrectionist released five years after the original

The power of The Resurrectionist is not the ingenious premise or even Dale’s special gift. It’s the author’s decision to focus on the victims, Sarah and Josh. Wrath James White makes you care for the imperfect couple by creating an authentic relationship and then developing it through adversity. They’re not cardboard cutout characters created to increase the kill count in service to the monster.

— Lionel Ray Green

‘A River of Blood’ 

The Resurrectionist begins with Dale as a child walking in on the savage scene of his drug-deranged father mutilating his mom’s body. “His mother was swimming in a river of blood.” It’s an awfully graphic scene filled with necrophilia and excessive violence. But it also shows the extraordinary extent of Dale’s power to resurrect while setting the stage for his future as a uniquely deviant sociopath.

White expertly establishes Dale’s arrested development. Heartbreaking scenes with his mother hit hard, but his emotionally stunted mind also fixates on rape as puberty’s hormones start roiling through his awkward body. You know by the end of Chapter 4 that Dale’s miraculous power to resurrect the dead will not be used for virtuous deeds. 

We are then introduced to Sarah Lincoln, a loving housewife working on her doctorate, which is about the sociological effects of pornography on society. Her husband Josh works as a blackjack dealer at one of the largest casinos in town. Unfortunately for them, Dale is moving into the house across the street. Sarah gets creepy vibes from their brief meet-and-greet with Dale, so much so that she rips into Josh for telling Dale that she basically is home alone while he works. When Josh apologizes, Sarah follows with one of the biggest understatements in horror fiction, “I’m probably just overreacting.” 

No, Sarah, you’re not. But the interaction shows Sarah’s instincts are sharp, which foreshadows her ability to feel when something’s wrong. It only takes Dale a few hours before he’s moved into his new house and decides to visit his friendly neighbors while they sleep across the street.

The author Wrath James White is a co-founder of the Splatterpunk Awards, which recognize superior achievement in Extreme Horror fiction. The awards debuted in 2018, nearly a decade after The Resurrectionist, but after reading it, you’ll know why White is the perfect author to co-helm the awards. White has penned many Extreme Horror novels and stories, including Succulent Prey and its sequel Prey Drive, but The Resurrectionist remains his most popular, and rightly so.

— Lionel Ray Green

The Ressurectionst (2009) - Author Wrath James White is a former World Class Heavyweight Kickboxer.
Author Wrath James White is a former World Class Heavyweight Kickboxer.

Satisfying his darkest desires 

Dale’s modus operandi is to kill the husband so he’s free to spend the night satisfying his darkest desires with Sarah. Whether she’s dead or alive doesn’t matter to him. It’s another difficult passage to stomach as the author’s descriptive storytelling pulls no punches on the XXX-rated scene of disgusting sex and violence.

Of course, if Dale kills his victims at the end of the night, they will have no memory of what happened when he resurrects them. But to completely quell any suspicions, Dale must also wash and dry their clothes and bedding, essentially wiping the murder scene clean and leaving the bedroom the way it was before he arrived. If he does all of that, no one will suspect or remember what he did. 

Except Sarah vividly remembers the attack after she wakes in a nightmare state screaming about Dale murdering Josh and raping and killing her – and not necessarily in that order. Her husband convinces her it’s a bad dream, because obviously they’re not dead, so it couldn’t have been real. The next morning, Sarah has forgotten all about the events that transpired the night before until Josh reminds her about the bad dream. But bloody clues soon spark her memory, and the nightmares continue. 

Worried about his wife’s mental state and vulnerability at home alone, Josh buys Sarah a handgun and a teddy bear nanny cam. When Sarah discovers other odd clues like waking up on a different set of bed sheets than the night before, Josh calls the police and tells the officer that their neighbor is breaking into their house and drugging and raping his wife. With no evidence, though, the cops cannot do much, so Sarah suggests a rape kit.  Eventually, Sarah confronts Dale who denies everything, and now Josh is wondering if his wife needs psychiatric help. But Sarah’s tenacity is rewarded as the police start to take the case more seriously. 

Meanwhile, we get a glimpse into Dale’s self-esteem and overall state of mind. With his complexion scarred and pitted by acne, Dale thinks he looks like Gollum from The Hobbit. He’s jealous of the men who date women like Sarah and enjoys killing them and then having sex with their significant others. But Sarah is special. 

“Dale never could have gotten a woman like that to give him the time of day. That’s why God had given him this gift. It evened everything out.” 

— Wrath James White, The Resurrectionist (2009)

Invoking God’s name to justify immoral behavior rarely ends well in horror fiction, or real life. 

 

The Resurrectionist (2009) - Alternative Cover

Focusing on the victims 

The power of The Resurrectionist is not the ingenious premise or even Dale’s special gift. It’s the author’s decision to focus on the victims, Sarah and Josh. Wrath James White makes you care for the imperfect couple by creating an authentic relationship and then developing it through adversity. They’re not cardboard cutout characters created to increase the kill count in service to the monster.

Josh loves Sarah but is conflicted with doubts about her impossible story; however, he still buys her a handgun and a nanny cam even if they can’t afford it. Sarah loves Josh and knows he would never cheat on her; however, she still wonders about the temptations he encounters from women at the casino. They have doubts and fears. They argue. They discuss finances. And they have sex. The relationship feels real.

While The Resurrectionist begins as Dale’s story, it transforms seamlessly into Sarah’s story. White’s ability to create a strong connection for the reader to Sarah and Josh is masterful storytelling. It gives the climactic confrontation with Dale so much more emotional heft. 

The ending – literally, down to the last word – is an all-timer. With its final devastating sentence, The Resurrectionist finishes off the reader with a stunning knockout blow that only a former World Class Heavyweight Kickboxer like White could deliver.

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