A lot of writers try their hand at hard core horror. I've seen quite a few that seem to want to be the next Edward Lee. Which is as ridiculous as someone trying to be the next Stephen King. A lot more have failed at the over-the-top horror novel than have succeeded.

I can't think of a better one offhand than Brian Keene's Urban Gothic. The author freely admits that this novel is directly inspired by Edward Lee. Yes, the influence is there, yet Urban Gothic is a book that only Brian Keene could have written.

I've followed Brian's career with enthusiasm and enjoyment for nearly a decade now. He's prolific and he gives his readers multiple books per year. No writer, I think, can deliver four star books with such frequency, but Mr. Keene has come close. Damned close.

Of course, The Rising books are his signature works of fiction. I believe they are the most popular and they are savagely good. Maybe it could be argued that Brian had more energy and enthusiasm than skill in his early books, but they are well-written and intense examples of zombie fiction. And to his credit, Brian doesn't merely ape the George Romero walking dead stereotype. He created a unique world with these books and that may be a large reason for their popularity.

Brian could pull a Thomas Harris and devote the rest of his career to The Rising universe. And he could probably do quite well with it. But he continues to expand his books with new directions. I admire that.

As much as I did enjoy Ghost Walk and Castaways, I didn't consider them to be among Brian's best works. But I still make a point to begin any Brian Keene book as soon as it comes into my hands.

Which brings me back to Urban Gothic. This novel is one of the most ghastly, grotesque, gross things I've ever read, but as always Brian takes care to deliver well-drawn characters that brings a nice level of humanity to even his most brutal works.

In Urban Gothic, a group of whitebread suburban teens are leaving a rap concert and get lost in a ghetto neighborhood. When their car breaks down they have a verbal skirmish with a group of inner city kids and take refuge in a dilapidated old house. Where they meet a giant, mutated, filthy, pustulant killer. And things get worse from there. Much, much worse.

In a way what they find in the house is ridiculous, but then most horror stories are. It's good writing that allows readers to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Let it be known: Urban Gothic is a sick book. The words, gory and gross, don't even come close to describing what happens in it. Brian constantly ups the stakes to the point where you think he can't go any further. But he does. Oh man does he.

I've reached a time and age in my life where I yawn at the idea of a gorefest in fiction. But I still love a good one and as I said earlier, Urban Gothic is one of the best. If you're the kind of reader that think the Edward Lee Leisure novels are too tame, Urban Gothic is the book for you. Being disgusted was rarely this much fun.

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