Since getting back into reading 3 years ago (2019 feels like AGES ago), I’ve been to my fair share of book stores in the surrounding 150 miles or so of my home. I’ve unearthed some amazing gems, ran into nostalgic childhood favorites and discovered some bizarre oddities and fascinating obscurities. Rather than wait to read the whole book and then do a review, I’ve been long meaning to share my random finds in a series of shorter articles entitled IT CAME FROM THE BOOK STORE. I always loved that cheesy old line “It came from so and so,” so I can’t think of a better title for this new series than that! I have thousands of titles to select from, but for my first entry into this brand new series I have to highlight the amazing find I made this past October of 2021. Come with me as I take you back to that fateful day…
PAPERBACKS FROM HELL
In October of 2018, I began dating the woman that would eventually become my wife. We lived 2 hours apart. We alternated weekends driving to each other’s place. Her town had way better book stores than where I live, and that’s how I got back into reading. Fast forward 3 years. October 2021. I visited the Half Price Books in that town and could not believe my eyes when I made my way to their horror section. It was jammed to the gills, packed to the rafters with paperbacks from Hell galore! Someone had apparently unloaded their ENTIRE horror book collection, as upon further examination most of the books had the same old book store stamps from a bygone era. Whoever sold these books to Half Price must have had them stored in the attic or something for the past 30+ years!
Here’s The Midnight Hour by Donald Bacon. Didn’t buy this one because the plot didn’t appeal to me, nor did the many negative reviews. BUT… that gawd damn glorious cover, with the die cut and everything… it’s an all-time classic in terms of horror paperback covers!
Richard Laymon is one of my favorite horror writers to have ever lived. Always a blast to run across one of his cooler covers that does not belong to the lame generic Leisure lineup. Here’s Funland, one of his many kooky and crazy horror stories set in a dilapidated rundown amusement park in some podunk beach town.
Fun fact: Funland was my first 500+ page read of my life. The first of many. Thanks for the memories, Uncle Dicky, and rest in power my man!
J.N. Williamson was another prolific horror writer of the 1980s. I have yet to read any of his work, and word is they’re quite trashy and typically of a lower quality, but it’s hard to talk about “Paperbacks From Hell” without at least giving him a blurb. Just look at those covers. You won’t see anything like that in today’s new horror books. The covers of these old nasties always felt like you were looking at something you shouldn’t be looking at. Very akin to gawking at horror VHS boxes back in the ’80s and early ’90s!
And much like cool horror movie boxes, a lot of the times the actual content failed massively to live up to the cover’s awesomeness. Still, there’s no denying that there’s a certain charm behind it all that is now nearly non-existent in today’s world. You might even say… such old relics are Dead to the World…
Speaking of horror writers from the ’80s, another big one was William W. Johnstone. I haven’t read one of his books yet but I hear this guy is batshit crazy! His books are very lewd and offensive. And I found a good bunch of them, including his infamous DEVIL series, that fateful day at Half Price.
One of the cool things about Half Price is that most of their used books are marked half off. Some aren’t, but these books were still a steal at these prices because the old horror paperbacks can command a pretty penny on the open market. Another nice thing is that Half Price shows the date books were processed into the store’s inventory. I was lucky to visit this location not long after they JUST put these vintage babies on the shelf. The more popular items fly off the shelf fast, so a lot of it comes down to being at the right place at the right time! And on that fateful day, I definitely was.
I’m super ecstatic to kick off this brand new IT CAME FROM THE BOOK STORE series with this amazing haul. Some days I go book shopping and come away empty handed. Other days I find a few goodies. But legendary finds like this only come around once in a blue moon! I walked away with so many infamous and beloved horror paperbacks from the ’80s. I’m sure there’s a fair share of stinkers in here, but I got most of them for $3 or so, and it’s hard to beat that! And what a joy to finally write something under 1,000 words and took me less than an hour to produce! You know, I think I’m going to like this series a whole lot. I hope you will, too. Until next time, take good care!