The original Splatterpunk era wasn't just about graphic violence and grossout situations. Jack Ketchum and Richard Laymon had already broken down barriers in publishing with hard-hitting, violent novels that defied previous literary conventions. They weren't really part of the movement. It really wasn't even a legitimate movement, but legend has grown about the period.

Most people who care about this stuff know about radical mid-80s horror novels like Skipp and Spector's The Light at the End and Schow's The Kill Riff as prime examples of the kind of thing I am talking about. Landale's The Drive-In fit nicely in the niche as well. These books dealt in tough, violent subject matter, but they were more than that. They were influenced by punk and heavy metal. John Waters and Alejandro Jodoroswki movies. It was subversive and rebellious.

Ray Garton's Live Girls and Crucifax belong in the same category. Ray hit the scene hard with these and other razor sharp horror novels. They are really good books, but I don't think they represent the best of Garton's fiction.

The years wore on, trends came and trends went. Ray Garton continued to write, and he routinely created some of the best horror fiction ever set to paper. The Girl in the Basement is a prime example of his extraordinary talent.

The Girl in the Basement is a novella that was originally published by Subterranean Press in 2004, in a deluxe hardcover that included a handful of other short stories. It is now available in a stand-alone edition for an unbeatable price.

The story concerns a decent but troubled orphan teenage boy living in a house with other adoptees. An overweight, mentally damaged little girl lives alone in the basement. Curiosity draws him to visit her, and he discovers she is something horrible. The girl speaks in the gravelly voice of an old man. She knows things she cannot possibly know. And what's with those men in suits and shadowy black cars who visit her?

Ray Garton takes this setup and in a brief number of pages weaves a scary-as-hell story filled with empathy, emotion, and nasty suspense. It's one one of his best pieces, I think, and I recommend it without reservation.

Sadly, it's been quite some time since we've had a new Ray Garton novel. Unless I'm missing something, it's been nearly seven years. The genre is in a glut of product right now, and there's no end of publications being issued every single week. Few even come close to Garton's level of expertise at the craft. I'm hoping to see something new by him in 2022.

Written by Mark Sieber

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