I've gone back and forth about how I feel about the splatterpunk (also known as hardcore, also known as extreme) horror genre. In some ways, it is a very freeing--and surprisingly entertaining--sub-genre of horror fiction. It pulls the genre out of the stereotypical slow moving, quiet, psychological (and often boring) stereotypes usually associated with horror fiction and "literature."
On the other hand, the genre can often goes too far in its descriptions of sexual content, violence, and depravity. At times, this becomes such a prevalent issue, that lesser authors who are trying to write in the genre sacrifice good character development, storytelling, and decent writing all-together in favor of macabre and grotesque descriptions.
With the advent of self-publishing we are seeing more and more terrible splatterpunk novels hitting the market--thus giving the genre a bad name. While I am a huge advocate of formula fiction, I still expect my horror literature--especially the splatterpunk fiction I read--to be well planned, well developed, and well written. Luckily, there are still many small indie publishers and authors who produce quality extreme horror fiction.
Edward Lee is one such author. My first experience with Lee was over two years ago when I picked up a book--aptly named The Backwoods--on a whim and read it. Unfortunately, at the time I was less than thrilled with the story. Not only was this my first foray with Lee, it was also my first experience with Splatterpunk, and needless to say I was unprepared for the ultra dark writing that was present in Lee's novel.
Now, after these few years, I have given Mr. Lee another chance--having experienced, read, and even written a few short stories of my own in the splatterpunk genre. I was not disappointed. Header is one of Lee's most well know books due to its chilling and depraved premise. It deals with well meaning characters, corrupt law enforcement, and the sickest version of backwoods revenge one could imagine.
To give away even a hint of the story, or the horrible crimes committed therein, would be a tragedy for readers who--having the stomach--are interested in reading this book.
Lee does an excellent job of writing from both the law enforcement side who are investigating the murders to the backwoods hillbillies themselves who think they are only acting in God's will. Despite the depraved nature and attitude of both perspectives, we oddly find ourselves interested in these strange characters on the basest of levels. Love, compassion, and good intentions all play a role along side the crime, mystery, and horror elements.
Lee is an excellent writer who knows how to truly write interesting and engaging characters. Additionally, the plot is well scripted and fun to read. Header is one of the milder splatterpunk novels I've read, and yet it is still disturbing and strange in all the ways you would expect from a horror novel of this caliber. In fact, this novel isn't too far off from many of the Hard Case Crime novels I read as far as explicit content is concerned. I would go so far as to call Header more of a mystery/thriller novel that just so happens to have extreme horror elements.
The gore/horror scenes had enough description and detail to disturb without going over-the-top as many splatterpunk novels do. The ending, although dark and horrific, was pitch perfect for the story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to any horror fans who have a taste for extreme horror in the vein of Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or The Hills Have Eyes. Although I usually can only take splatterpunk in small doses, I did enjoy Header and plan to read more form Edward Lee in the future.
N.C. Patterson is a writer of mystery and horror fiction. He has been an active publicist, journalist, and blogger in the indie horror community for over five years.