Hello again Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World! Today I’ve got a special treat for you all today; a week or so back, Wes forwarded me a request we’d received here at the Blood Sprayer, asking us to review a new novel by the truly excellent title of Hellzapalooza: The Best Damned Rock Show Ever!, as Wes is busy with new-baby duties, the review opportunity was passed to me. And let me tell you, Brothers and Sisters, what an opportunity it turned out to be! Let me just pour myself another Crown-and-Coke and I’ll tell you all about it.
Some minor spoilers ensue.
In the tiny town of Theodosia, Missouri — right in the heart of the Ozarks — something dark is growing just under the surface. Just under the ground. And people there — nice, friendly, blue-collar people — are starting to act awful strange. In the midst of this, an unscrupulous concert promoter, RayJay Jahraznik (a man who, by himself, makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like Sunday School frolics), inherits a piece of property on the outskirts of Theodosia.
While inspecting the property, RayJay has a run-in with Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Ozzy Osbourne and several other legends of Rock, who tell him that this big open space on the edge of Theodosia would be the perfect place to host the biggest, nastiest, most perverse rock concert in the history of the human race. And Jimi/Jim/Ozzy swears to do everything within his/their power to help make it happen, if RayJay “will only bow down and worship me.”
As Hell comes to Earth in Theodosia, it’s up to an old, cantankerous mountain witch, a psychic, her daughter, an artist afflicted by horrific visions and a straight-shooting, knife-throwing auto mechanic to save the souls of all Mankind. But will they be enough to accomplish the job?
Hellzapalooza‘s overarching story-line was penned by Mark Groves, who is also the kind gent who offered the book to us for review. Interspersed throughout the narrative are side-chapters detailing outbreaks of Horror on the periphery of the concert both during the show and in the days leading up to it, each written by a different author, including Joe Baric, Laura Hardenbrook, Andrew Rambo, Maddie McFadden, John Peterson, and Lisa Shepard.
Let me tell you, readers…this book ROCKED me, pun gloriously intended. I’ve been reading it on my lunch-break at work and narrowly escaping a chewing-out from my supervisor for taking overly long lunches, because this is a book that demands not to be put down. It brings the soul of Rock and Roll — that brilliant, blinding, fire of love and hate and rebellion that courses through the listener’s veins, pouring hot, sonic ecstasy across every nerve ending from the first notes — to life more fully than anything else I can think of, with the possible exceptions of Walter Hill’s 1984 film STREETS OF FIRE, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run album. Those are the three holiest texts of Rock and Roll Soul, and now Hellzapalooza adds a fourth.
Additionally, despite a veneer of Judeo-Christian iconography, Hellzapalooza is one of the more Lovecraftian books I’ve read in ages. Theodosia, as presented by Groves and Co., would not seem out of place on the Aylesbury Pike between Arkham and Dunwich. It’s a decaying little town, riddled throughout with gnawing corruption, a place where everyone has their dark secrets, from the unfaithful, possibly ephebophile mayor to the fat broad behind the counter of the bait shop with a sex dungeon in her basement and a thriving pornography business. It’s the kind of town where rape is blamed on the victim and a black man has to watch his neck at all times. The Evil threatening to consume Theodosia and the world presents itself as the Christian Satan because it’s dealing with individuals who understand Evil in a Christian theological framework, but it’s clearly far older than Christianity. And for what it’s worth, the Evil also presents itself as the Angel Michael to twist an evangelical preacher to its own ends.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say a major theme of the novel is that Evil Wears Many Faces. Throughout the novel, Evil presents itself as Satan, Michael, God, Ozzy, Idi Amin, Jimi Hendrix, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Jim Morrison, a Nazi Commandant, and the rapist next door, shifting in appearance from moment to moment, as if in embodiment of the idea that any one of us could be twisted to evil deeds without constant vigilance over our own souls. Pretty heady stuff for a novel that also features a character sodomizing a dominatrix with an eggplant and then proposing marriage to her.
All in all, Hellzapalooza: The Best Damned Rock Show Ever! lives up to its subtitle. I really tremendously enjoyed it from beginning to end, and recommend it to everyone who reads the Blood Sprayer without hesitation or reservation. Read. This. Book.
Tags: Andrew Rambo, demon, Hellzapalooza, Horror, Joe Baric, John Peterson, Laura Hardenbrook, Lisa Shepard, Lovecraftian horror, Maddie McFadden, Mark Grove, psychic, rape, Reviews, rock and roll, Zombies