Sick and Twisted
The kind of books I mostly read these days would be best categorized as "literature." I always have a hard time explaining what they are about to people who don't know them because they don't fall into any easily recognizable genre. They just are literature. They are stories about people, typically, with the focus on the characters and their lives. They are stories about what it is to be human and the specific events and occurrences the stories encompass vary widely. They never are easily explained and categorized. Similarly, those are the kinds of stories I write myself and thus I always have a hard time explaining those, as well. One of the questions I hate most in the world is when I mention to someone that I'm writing a story and they ask, "What's it about?" The question is inevitable but I can never answer it. For the most part, I've simply learned not to mention that I'm writing a story.
Yet, while literature is what I most read, I also love some genre work. In particular, I've always been a fan of horror. I grew up reading young adult horror novels. I read everything I could get my hands on but my favorite author, easily, was Christopher Pike. Back when I was in elementary and junior high, he was huge and I loved everything he wrote. I moved on, of course, to adult writers--though I still have a fond spot for Pike to this day--and came to enjoy King and Koontz, John Saul, Robert McCammon and more. I don't read John Saul anymore, but I still like the other writers and I've really taken a liking to Richard Matheson, as well. He easily is one of the all-time best horror writers. I Am Legend is a great book.
One of my favorite horror writers, however, is Bentley Little. This guy is genius. Except he's actually not all that great of a writer. He's passable, but you'll never be amazed by any passage of his, at least in terms of sheer writing talent. You may, however, be amazed at a passage simply because of how fucking sick and twisted it is. This guy is amazing at coming up with horrid situations--events that will really screw with your head. He never holds back and isn't afraid to kill characters in horrible ways and cause them to do truly sick and disgusting things. I still remember one particular scene from his book The Store that left my mouth open in astonishment, in part because I was simply so surprised to read it in a mainstream novel, even if it was a horror novel.
University was another impressive book. That dealt with an evil university--as you might guess from the title--and I suppose he felt that he really had to work to think up some crazed behavior since he was dealing with already-crazed college students. I must say, he succeeded brilliantly.
I've read almost all of Little's books at this point, which is kind of a shame. I loved having something by him as a backup on my shelf. Whenever I wanted something easy and mindless to read, I could turn to him without hesitation. Little's books vary somewhat in quality, but he never lets me down in terms of entertaining me. Probably the reason he is so consistently good is because he has such a clear and obvious template. Almost every book he has written is titled "The (fill in the blank here)" and they all follow similar patterns. The characters are established, the evil is established, everyone starts going crazy and doing horrible things, the things get worse and worse and worse leading up to an eventual explanation--which is usually mediocre as it's just an excuse to write a series of outlandish scenes--and then the story ends, usually on a slightly happy ending but with much mayhem, horror and death having occurred. It's fucking brilliant.
It's pure pop entertainment, but he's just so good at it. You have to admire what he does if you have any love of horror. You'll never read a Bentley Little book and be left considering him a wordsmith. You'll never find great insights into human behavior. You'll never finish one of his books and then sit and contemplate what it all meant. But you'll probably be entertained and you'll most likely be impressed at the sort of twisted situations this man can think up. Read The Revelation if you want to see just how sick he can be.
So if you like horror and you're looking for a cheap and easy read that pushes straight through the boundaries of good taste, Bentley Little is your man. He's sick and he's not that impressive a writer, but damn is he entertaining.