"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of "The Collector" series, The Killing Kind, and Red Right Hand.

"A refreshingly new voice in noir." --Ed Kurtz, author of Nothing You Can Do and The Rib From Which I Remake the World.

"A glorious boilermaker of noir and East Coast gothic. The action is taut as a sprung snare and Bagley tightens the screws with every page." -- Laird Barron, author of Swift to Chase and Blood Standard.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Forgotten Books Friday

Hell House
by Richard Matheson (1971)

Fall is my favorite season and Halloween is the best holiday of them all. To get into the spirit, I’ll devote my next couple of Fridays posts to rereading some novels that I consider overlooked classics of horror. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the Halloween season than by visiting Richard Matheson’s Hell House.

The Belasco House in Caribou Falls, Maine is the “Mt. Everest of haunted houses.” For years a haven for acts so depraved they would have made Caligula lose his lunch, the mansion earned its title of Hell House after all of Belasco’s guests were found dead of various nasty causes. The body of Emeric Belasco was never discovered, though some believe that he or his spirit still haunts the house forty-three years later. An aging bazillionaire has recently bought the house, and he offers one hundred thousand dollars for proof (one way or the other) of life after death.

Enter Professor Lionel Barrett and the best anti-spook technology that 1970 has to offer. Barrett, who makes Egon from Ghostbusters look like a wannabe, is out to prove once and for all that ghosts are merely a form of electromagnetic radiation left behind when a person dies. His Reversor is designed to set up a countercharge that will “clear the house.”

Barrett is accompanied by his wife Edith—a woman with more repressed desires than the priest at an all-boys parochial school—and a pair of mediums. Florence Tanner is the leader of the Temple of Spiritual Harmony. She hopes to commune with and free the spirits trapped within the house; the big paycheck will also make it possible for she and her followers to build a real church. Benjamin Franklin Fischer is known as one of the most powerful mediums in the world. He is also the sole survivor of an earlier attempt at uncovering the mystery of Belasco House. Fischer has spent years trying to drown his power in alcohol and hide from the past, but events in the house force him to fight back.

Hell House is one of the best works by the true master of horror. Fear oozes from its pages. Richard Matheson’s other books include I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes and The Beardless Warriors. He was also one of the writers for the original Twilight Zone series and huge influence on some guy named Stephen King.

As always, you can check out the full list of today’s forgotten books recommendations on Patti Abbott’s blog.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Just finished I Am Legend and it could have been written yesterday. Fresh, succinct, lucid. Just loved it. Right to the top of my best books list.

Barrie said...

I don't read much horror, but perhaps I should try this one. Happy Halloween to you--a fave holiday around my house!

Jerry House said...

I'm dating myself, but I remember Rod Serling singing the praises of this book on an afternoon TV talk show. A great book.

Sheila said...

If you want to read a good, scary tale of horror, you should read "The Pink Room" by Maine author Mark LaFlamme.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

I'll have to look for that one.