RED By Jack Ketchum – Reviewed

Avery Ludlow is an old man fishing with his dog. When three teenagers try to rob him he offers them all the cash he has, barely twenty dollars. The teenagers aren’t happy and shoot Ludlow’s dog, blasting off its head with a shotgun and laughing as they make their escape.

So far, so Ketchum. I was expecting a huge and hideously violent revenge tale.

Erm, that’s not what happens. Instead, we get Ludlow trying to get justice, but by traditional, conventional methods; visiting the boys’ parents, going to the police, appearing on TV. But Ludlow’s efforts come to nothing and each time he tries something new, they retaliate against him, with bricks through his window, and burning down his store.

This isn’t really a violent book, it doesn’t make your squirm. It’s a quiet novel from Ketchum, who doesn’t deliver the nastiness he normally does. This is a nice book, more subtle than regular Ketchum readers are used to. It’s good, Ketchum still provides the goods, but not in the way you expect. It’s a nice horror novel, more like a Richard Laymon or Dean R. Koontz book. A horror novel that turns out right in the end, not the bloody massacre of Off Season.

Obviously the publishers have realised that what Ketchum readers want is blood, violence and nastiness, and so they’ve provided us with the novella “The Passenger” in this edition. Classic Ketchum. When her car breaks down late one night Janet is pleasantly surprised to be picked up by a former classmate. So she wasn’t exactly friends with Marion, but she doesn’t have too far to get home. Then they crash into a group of murderers and rapists after Marion refuses to let Janet leave the car, and things start to get really nasty.

When humans goes bad, it could be the tag line of most of Ketchum’s work, and “The Passenger” is no exception. Think of all of the evil possibilities and them throw in some more and then ramp it up a notch, and that’s what Ketchum delivers.

Red isn’t Ketchum at his best, but it’s still a good novel, and nice and short. But “The Passenger” is classic Ketchum, and classic Ketchum always delivers. It’s not like reading, it’s like experiencing pain and torture. Somehow, you don’t know how, you managed to survive and you know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

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