Midnight Horror Show – Ben Lathrop

Sat 3rd May 1964
Well hello boils, ghouls and … readers
Welcome to the Midnight Horror Show
The year is 1964.

Steeped in the limbs and livers of R. L. Stine, this retro horror novel sees kids watching the host of the show open up the viewing in true Crypt Keeper style; full of bloody, camp effects and bad puns, whilst apparently killing a young girl on stage before the double feature.
David Carlson loved it.

At first.

Oct 1985
Years later, the now adult David Carlson, has been appointed “head of the Investigative Unit”, which prior to this, had been a one-man band, back in his home town. Carlson had started drinking years ago, his wife left him and he’d hoped his transfer to a small town would help, but he was still drinking. ‘Til Chief Hayes had helped him pull it together ’bout ten years ago.Carlson in a way appears to be the cliched grizzled, jaded cop, yet as the novel progresses we find out more about some of his buried memories and how it relates to the events in 1985. 
He’s also aware of the skills of a female police officer who is mostly ignored by colleagues and wants to help James West, a loner teen who may or may not be involved in the murder of a local dignitary.
The nude male body of Richard Boyd is found by his wife Mary. The body is tied up, hanging upside down but there’s a distinct lack of physical evidence; no blood despite the throat being cut. And the witnesses all saw the streets filled with heavy fog, “like out of a movie.”

The victim is Boyd of “Boyd’s Quality Meats Boyd” – a local meat packing plant employing many of the guys in Dubois. Though Boyd had retired and sold up he would always be known for the meat business. Something isn’t right with this case, and cop Franklin tells Carlson he reckons it’s some sort of cult thing.
Then there’s the weird guys passing out flyers.
“Midnight Spook Party
SEE the dead return! …

See a murder live in stage”

Set the same year that ‘Fright Night ‘ came out, the book revels in the vibe of the late night movie showing, and even has its own ‘Peter Vincent’ in the form of Boris Orlaf, host of Saturday Nightmares. It is brimming with movie nostalgia, with Easter eggs or pop culture references scattered throughout the text, the most amusing being the character Johnny Alucard, a name fans of Kim Newman will recognise.

There’s also some very real commentary about the role of women in film during this period and contextual discussion between characters about the violence in film creating serial killers etc, which adds a depth and a realism to the text.

I liked Carlson so much I think he could easily lead his own continuing series of supernatural crimes, kind of like Barker ‘s Harry D’Amour. 
Gory, funny, punny and with genuine scares, ‘Midnight Horror Show’ is a fantastic blend of Richard Laymon meets R L Stine with a dash of noir cop and The Monster Squad – for adults.This is probably my favourite horror of 2020.

Ben Lathrop’s cinematic visions are a force to be reckoned with.

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