Jack Ketchum is a former actor, teacher and literary agent whose reputation in his native America is based on eight lean and brilliant novels that transcend the horror genre. He has thrilled readers and stunned critics. He lives in New York City.
Carole doesn't want to murder her drunken, sadistic ex-husband but if the police can't protect her how else will she ever be free? She solves the problem on a sunny mountainside. Her lover, Lee, has the baseball bat but she's the one with the courage to crush a man's skull and pitch him off the mountain.
Wayne sees it all. Every moment. It's the very best day of his life. Because it points the way down the road for him. The killing road. And the way he plans it, he and Carole and Lee are all going to do a little travelling together...
Arthur Danse doesn't live by the normal rules. He knows he has been put on earth for a purpose - to show people that the world is a dark and terrible place. To say no to Arthur Danse is to receive a lesson in fear and pain. No matter who you are. Wife...lover...stranger...or eight-year-old son.
Lydia McCloud is one of life's givers. A nurse whose own hard upbringing gives her a special sympathy for those in need. Lydia doesn't discover the real Arthur until it's far too late. Until she's married to him and their son Robert has become the centre of her world. And she's forced into the battle of her life for the sake of her only child...
Half thriller, half court-room drama, this is a great read. Life isn't always peaches and cream - and this novel proves it. Gritty, realistic, and just downright horrible at some stages, here's a book that you could read again and again. Once again, you just can't put this novel down from page one. There is an uneasy feeling of fear and dread throughout this novel, and as the plot screams to its conclusion, your worst fears are realised. The scary part is coming to the conclusion that you would do the same things Lydia does if placed in her situation. Very realistic and very disturbing...this book is about life - warts and all. Ketchum has obviously never heard of the saying, "...and they all lived happily ever-after."
In season, there's the tourists. Off season, there's only the locals - and visitors like Carla. She's on a working holiday, editing a book, but first she's got to clean up the house and play host to a bunch of friends.
Nearby, a family of barbarous humans lurks in the woods, watching, waiting to feed their unnatural hunger...And within the next few hours, a group of sophisticated people will learn just how small a step it is from civilisation - to savagery...
Off Season was his first novel. Along with Richard Laymon's debut The Cellar which was published at almost exactly the same time, these two novels have been the forerunners in what has subsequently been known as "splatterpunk". But unlike many novels that are published under that name, Ketchum's is not gore for gore's sake alone. His is a powerful, troubling and moody book.
As expected from a debut novel, Off Season is flawed, it is rough and raw, not as refined as the novels that were to come. But in my opinion, this only makes the book that much more powerful.
The novel is based in a tourist resort. Told in Ketchum's trademark style, lean and spare, the book takes place at "off-season", the time of the year when the tourists have gone, leaving only the locals around.
Living in the woods nearby, are a family of deranged half humans, who satiate their barbarous instincts with incest, torture, rape and murder. When the civilised community comes face to face with these primitive monsters, the results are terrifying.
It rather reminded me of William Golding's Lord Of the Flies. The central theme in that book, as in Off Season, is that no matter how civilised we are, it takes only one small step to descend into savagery.
As with most of Ketchum's work, the novel is quite short, only 250 pages long. With little room to manoeuvre, this novel will go straight for your throat and hang on until the final terrifying pages…
-- Faisal Ahmad, England
The old man hears them before he sees them, the three boys coming over the hill, disturbing the peace by the river where he's fishing. He smells the gun oil, too much oil on a brand-new shotgun. These aren't hunters, they're rich kids who don't care about the river and the fish and the old man. Or his dog.
Red is the name of the old man's dog, his best friend in the world. And when the boys shoot the dog - for nothing, for simple spite - he sees red, like a mist before his eyes.
And before the whole thing is done there'll be more red. Red for blood...
The local sheriff of Dead River, Maine, thought he'd killed them off ten years ago - a primitive, cave-dwelling tribe of predatory savages. But he failed. Somehow the clan survived. To breed. To hunt. To kill and eat. And if the peaceful residents of Dead River are to survive, they too must unleash their primal instincts. For blood...
Ketchum takes us back to Dead River, 11 years later and we find little has changed in the small tourist community. Sure, some of the faces have changed, but the horror still lurks, out in the woods. For Laymon fans, there's some lovely references to THE WOODS ARE DARK (now a successful CD-Rom computer game in the world of Dead River...) and, just like a good Laymon, OFFSPRING will drag you in on its first page and hang on to you for the whole book.
As with OFFSEASON, OFFSPRING takes place over just 24 hours and leaves both you, the characters and the author with the feeling of the ride of your life. If you can, grab a weekend and read OFFSPRING and OFFSEASON together as a terrific double-bill! It'll scare your socks off! Not many sequels are this good, but then again, not every author is Jack Ketchum.