Reviews

The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

Suburbia. Shady, tree-lined streets, well-tended lawns and cozy homes. A nice, quiet place to grow up. Unless you are teenage Meg or her crippled sister, Susan. On a dead-end street, in the dark, damp basement of the Chandler house, Meg and Susan are left captive to the savage whims and rages of a distant aunt who is rapidly descending into madness. It is a madness that infects all three of her sons and finally the entire neighborhood. Only one troubled boy stands hesitantly between Meg and Susan and their cruel, torturous deaths. A boy with a very adult decision to make.

A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all capable.

This novel contains graphic content and is recommended for regular readers of horror novels.

Dallas William Mayr, better known by his pen name Jack Ketchum, was an American horror fiction author. He was the recipient of four Bram Stoker Awards and three further nominations. His novels included Off Season, Offspring, and Red, which were adapted to film. In 2011, Ketchum received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.

A onetime actor, teacher, literary agent, lumber salesman, and soda jerk, Ketchum credited his childhood love of Elvis Presley, dinosaurs, and horror for getting him through his formative years. He began making up stories at a young age and explained that he spent much time in his room, or in the woods near his house, down by the brook: “[m]y interests [were] books, comics, movies, rock ‘n roll, show tunes, TV, dinosaurs […] pretty much any activity that didn’t demand too much socializing, or where I could easily walk away from socializing.” He would make up stories using his plastic soldiers, knights, and dinosaurs as the characters.

Later, in his teen years, Ketchum was befriended by Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, who became his mentor.

Ketchum worked many different jobs before completing his first novel (1980’s controversial Off Season), including acting as agent for novelist Henry Miller at Scott Meredith Literary Agency.

His decision to eventually concentrate on novel writing was partly fueled by a preference for work that offered stability and longevity.

Ketchum died of cancer on January 24, 2018, in New York City at the age of 71

My Review:

Warning: This is not an easy read – it’s harrowing and brutal and not for the faint hearted and the fact it’s based on a true story is even worse.

Told from the view point of a young boy living in a close-knit neighbourhood where all the kids play together, hang out and sleep over at each other’s houses, David’s life changes when his next door neighbour fosters two teenage girls.

There is no sugar coating this book – it’s about abuse, verbal, physical, sexual and mental on two innocent young girls who have come to live with their aunt and 3 male cousins after their parents are killed in a car crash.  The abuse is VILE and UNIMAGINABLE and yet the author brings it to life and lays the horror wide open for the reader.

It’s difficult to review this book as enjoyable or even recommend it, it’s uncomfortably compelling, well written and unfortunately shows the darker side of humanity.

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